Breaking news reporting often gets essential facts wrong. In fact, the rampant misreporting can be so common as to be predictable. And so, On the Media has developed formulas (with the help of experts) for how to spot spotty coverage. Rather than counting on news outlets to get it right, we're looking at the other end. We have some tips for how to sort good information from bad -- whether the breaking news is about a tragic mass shooting or a stock market crash, an epidemic or a rash of election polls. Below is our collection of Breaking News Consumer's Handbooks, and it's growing all the time. Each one comes with a printable PDF that you can tape to your wall the next time you encounter a big news event.
The Cohen testimony, a new Breaking News Consumer's Handbook, the risks of laundering our hot takes through history, and the story of an infamous Nazi rally.
When President Trump’s former personal lawyer testified in front of Congress this week, it was both captivating and oddly familiar. This week, On the Media looks at the tropes that ran through the hearings, and offers a guide to news consumers trying to understand the tangled threads of the Mueller investigation. Plus, a sideways glance at historical hot takes and a second look at an infamous Nazi rally in the heart of New York City.
1. Bob and Brooke on Michael Cohen's enthralling testimony this week. Listen.
CORRECTION: In the opening segment, we describe U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, of Tennessee, as belonging to the wrong political party. Rep. Cooper is a Democrat.
Poor coverage of female candidates; re-examining Lorena Bobbitt's legacy; and the farce of Black History Month.
The 2020 Democratic field is the most diverse ever, and five women are running to be the party’s presidential nominee. This week, we look at the sexist coverage of female candidates with a new Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Gender and Politics Edition. Then, a re-examination of a 90's tabloid spectacle, Lorena Gallo (Lorena Bobbitt), arrested for cutting her husband's penis off after he raped her. Plus, how Black History Month undermines black history.
Despite steadily declining rates of cancer deaths over the past two decades, cancer remains responsible for 1 in every 6 deaths worldwide. It’s a scourge. So when, this week, an Israeli company called Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies captured the news cycle with promises of a complete cure for cancer within the year, the story caught fire.
The company’s technology is called “MuTaTo” — that's multi-target toxin. And, to judge from the news media this week, it seems vetted, verified and veering us all toward a cancer-free future. Reports began in the Jerusalem Post, but quickly took off, making their way into various Murdoch-owned publications like FOX and the New York Post and landing in local news outlets around the country and the globe.
A couple days into the fanfare, the skeptics started coming out: for one thing, as oncologist David Gorski points out in his blog “Respectful Insolence,” the claims are based on experiments with mice: no human trials have yet started. For another, they haven’t been sufficiently peer reviewed. In fact, the company won’t share its research, claiming it can’t afford the expense. The too-good-to-be-true story appears to be just that, built on PR puffery. But who can resist a good cancer cure?
With Mutato in mind, for this week’s podcast extra, we revisit our Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Health News edition, with Gary Schwitzer, publisher & founder of HealthNewsReview.org.
This summer we revisit some of our most important Breaking News Consumer Handbooks. Episode 3 in this mini-series is Airline Crash Edition.
When a commercial plane goes down, media speculation ensues. With the help of The Atlantic's James Fallows, we give you some tips that can help you comb through the coverage.
This summer, we're revisiting some of our favorite Breaking News Consumer Handbooks. Episode 2 in this mini-series is Military Coup Edition.
Back in the summer of 2016, Turkish putschists shut down highways, attacked government buildings and took broadcasters hostage, world media outlets struggled to provide sober reports of the coup. During the chaos, some listeners told us on Twitter that they’d appreciate an OTM Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Coup Edition. Coups are especially tricky to report on because they're mainly about perception and narrative. Plotters and the government are both trying to establish dominance, and misreporting can determine whether the attempt succeeds or not.
Naunihal Singh, author of Seizing Power: The Strategic Logic of Military Coups, says the first step for a successful military coup is to take control of radio and tv broadcasters. From there, they can literally and figuratively control the narrative.
Brooke spoke to Singh about how to understand coups through the media, and how to understand whether an attempt will succeed or fail.
This summer we revisit some of our Breaking News Consumer's Handbooks. To mark the ramping up of hurricane season, the first episode in this mini-series is the US Storm Edition.
For media professionals, hurricanes offer the very best kind of bad news because the story arc is predictable and invariably compelling. In this summer series revisiting some of our Breaking News Consumer’s Handbooks, we examine the myths, misleading language, and tired media narratives that clog up news coverage at a time when clarity can be a matter of life and death.
Brooke speaks with Dr. Robert Holmes, National Flood Hazard Coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey; Gina Eosco, a risk communication consultant; and Scott Gabriel Knowles of Drexel University, author of The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America.
This summer we are revisiting some of our favorite Breaking News Consumer Handbooks. Episode 4 in this mini-series is Tectonic Edition.
After an earthquake struck Nepal in April of 2015, the post-disaster media coverage followed a trajectory we'd seen repeated after other earth-shaking events. We put together a template to help a discerning news consumer look for the real story. It's our Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Tectonic Edition. Brooke spoke to Jonathan M. Katz, who wrote "How Not to Report on an Earthquake" for the New York Times Magazine.