Fact-checking summary The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail,  is one of the biggest newspapers in the United Kingdom and the The Mail Online is one of the most viewed news mediums online in the United Kingdom. Therefore, we decided to inspect this paper. During our fact-checking project we fact-checked five articles.

The popularity of The Daily Mail was not our sole motivation for scrutinising their articles. In the beginning of 2017 Wikipedia announced that it had banned the use of the Daily Mail as a reliable source on their platform, citing it as having a “reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication.” This action was an unprecedented move for Wikipedia. This inspired us to first-handedly discover what actually is so wrong with content published by the Daily Mail.

Using methods described by the Science Literacy Project we assessed the following five articles and judged them on their accuracy and credibility:

 

It is fair to say that the Daily Mail provided more decent articles than we initially expected. Although it was assumed that we would find more overtly framed articles riddled with false statements and unsubstantiated, sensational facts, it turned out that, in most articles, they did not do that bad of a job — though definitely not a good job either. We discovered enough ‘issues’ in the articles that indicate that aspects of articles published by the Daily Mail are of low journalistic quality.

The Daily Mail has a tendency of over-sensationalising stories. This was found in the articles on Jamal Khashoggi, Obama on Trump, and the giant shark. Although the headlines of the articles mainly told (most of) the truth; words such as: ‘giant’ (shark) and ‘confused, angry racist’ (Obama on Trump) were added to draw in readers whilst they did not necessarily reflect the content of the article. It is evident that this sensational writing style is used across the majority of articles published by the Daily Mail — something that can be verified by taking a quick glance at their homepage.

The Daily Mail also has difficulty with quotations. In the ‘Obama on Trump’ article, for example, quotes were slightly adjusted to increase their aggressiveness; and in the ‘Somali-born Terrorist’ article, parts of larger statements were omitted to manipulate their meaning. The fact that a newspaper is not able to properly copy-paste statements and write down quotations without removing or adjusting information is, of course, very troubling. Manipulating quotations affects the overall meaning of events — especially if a topic has a big societal impact, you do not want your newspaper to present only half a quote, or, a slightly changed quote. This stimulates the misinterpretation of what information was actually conveyed about the event, and, therefore, actively misinforms the newspapers’ audience.

Another pattern that we stumbled upon was that the Daily Mail does not put in the effort to update their articles. This occured in the article on the giant shark, in which an updated Facebook post was not included in the general article update; and in the article on Khashoggi’s death, were the correct names and titles of the people involved were not included in its update whilst being incorrect in the original publication. By inaccurately updating their articles, or flat-out refusing to do so, the information the Daily Mail provides becomes misleading in the long-term and that, of course, is not preferable. Especially on their website it should not be that difficult to update their article and rectify errors.

To conclude, although The Daily Mail did produce articles of a higher quality than was expected, we still found several troubling patterns that probably have a negative impact on its audience — misinforming them. Making headlines or content overtly sensational, perhaps, is not that bad (it is part of the identity of the Daily Mail), however, adjusting statements and quotations or inaccurately/not updating articles is of concern. What the Daily Mail does, does not happen by accident — they actively try to influence the public opinion by spreading half-truths and omitting vital information..

 

— D.K. Degeling, A.N.H. Hjelt, J.R. van Nierop, J. Sam, Y.P. Samarawira

Advertenties

How to deal with misleading information? (Carribean Edition)

Why do we rely on misleading information?
There are many factors that can lead to using misleading information. One of these factors has to do with the way our brain works. According to Festinger (1957) we, humans, like to avoid cognitive dissonance. In other words, we like to avoid conflicting thoughts.

Another factor that leads to relying on misleading information also has to do with our brain. Our memory can let us down. According to Kalogeropoulos, Flechter & Nielsen  (2018) it is hard to remember a source when you’ve read an article via search engines or social media. A direct link to the website of the source helps to remember the source much better. For the coming part of this blog, both of these factors are important to remember.

Off we go
Time to go to a more sunnier part of The Kingdom of The Netherlands. Have you ever been to Curaçao? No? The beaches are beautiful and the weather is really nice. It’s an island in the Caribbean Sea, just north of Venezuela.

I went to Curaçao to do my thesis during my bachelor. I conducted my thesis on what way the Governor of Curaçao could use the digital media to connect more with the inhabitants of Curaçao. During my thesis, I experienced a political battle. I’ll give you more context of what happened…

Afbeelding1 (me and Governor of Curaçao)

Time for a little backstory…
Curaçao is not part of Netherlands, but part of The Kingdom of The Netherlands. It has its own Prime Minister and Governor. The Governor of Curaçao has the same tasks as King Willem-Alexander had in The Netherlands, approving newly written laws. The Prime Minister of Curaçao is head of the government. The current Governor is Lucille George-Wout.

Another important person in this blog is Gerrit Schotte, he was the Prime Minister of Curaçao between 10 October 2010 and 29 September 2012. During this time he already had controversial decisions. But this got worse, he got convicted for accepting 1 million euro from a mafia boss in 2016. He went in higher appeal and did everything to stay out of jail. And by everything, I really mean everything.

On the 12th of February, 2017, the night before I started my first day at the office at Fort Amsterdam, Curaçao. The Cabinet of Curaçao was fallen. Two people left the biggest party of Curaçao and this created an opportunity for Gerrit Schotte to once again gain power. Since he was convicted he could not become prime minister himself but he had other people in his party who worked for him. Eventually, Gilbart Pisas became the new Prime Minister of Curaçao. With Pisas as Prime Minister, Schotte had once again a lot of power on the island.  The Governor of Curaçao wanted what was best for the island and not what was best for Gerrit Schotte. Between the 12th of February and the new elections on the 28th of April a lot of misleading information about the Governor of Curaçao and the relationship with Holland was published. This was in the advantage of Gerrit Schotte, he wanted an independent Curaçao. There is a big difference between the media usage on Curaçao compared to Holland.

The media usage on Curaçao
This might sound weird, but believe me, everything on Curaçao goes via Facebook instead of a website. According to Markstra (2016) Facebook is the biggest medium that is used by the population of Curaçao. The most popular journalist of Curaçao has several Facebook-accounts with more than 50.000 followers.

Another important way of communicating about the latest news is the Facebook-group “DurftevragenCuraçao” this page contains more than 23.000 followers. And this page is frequently used to ask about the latest events on Curaçao.

Screenshot_1 (Impact of Facebook)

The literature
Looking back at the research of Kalogeropoulos et al., (2018) it was stated that most people don’t remember where the source came from if it is being communicated via Facebook. This is in line with research of UNESCO (2016) they found in their study that most people on Curaçao see Facebook as most unreliable source.  But even if they don’t trust this medium, it was still the most used way to communicate.

This can eventually create a filter bubble with fake news. According to Anspach (2017) friends and family on Facebook can influence the feed (the content you read). With the misleading information that was published in the media, the effect of friends and family that influence your feed (Anspach, 2017) it could eventually have an effect on someone’s worldview (Cook, 2012). The misleading information was mainly about that the Governor was bad and not caring about Curaçao and that The Netherlands did not care about Curaçao. So if this kind of news is in line with your beliefs, then things that the Governor said will definitely trigger a worldview backfire effect. This could lead to people voting on Schotte just to backfire the Governor.

Schotte did everything to block new elections. He warned the head of polling stations that if he would be open during the elections, he would lose his job. Ballot papers were sent to wrong addresses, The temporary Prime Minister visited the jail of Curaçao and promised everyone a monthly €750,- if he would the elections (see the picture below). I even received an SMS from the biggest telecom company on the island to vote on Schotte.

Afbeelding2 (Prime Minister posing in Jail)

The Governor had to react
The Governor asked help from Ronald Plasterk, the former Minister of Internal Affairs. He did a lot to help the Governor of Curaçao. To fight the misleading information the Governor emphasized the facts and explained what was wrong about the misleading information in her speeches.

Happy ending
In the end, it was nice to experience. With the help of The Netherlands, safe elections could be organized and luckily not everybody was convinced by Schotte. The party with the most votes, Real Alternative Party, eventually won the elections of the 28th of April, 2017. Eugene Rhuggenaath is still the current president and Schotte will go to jail. Rhuggenaath wants to work together with The Netherlands to create a better future for Curaçao and the Governor has much more time for other important things and does not need to worry about Schotte anymore.

My conclusion
According to McFalls & Cobb-Roberts (2001) learning about diversity can change the worldview of the person. This can eventually lead to less cognitive dissonance. In my opinion, this is really important. I advised the Governor of Curaçao in my thesis that she had to communicate what her daily activities are, this can give the people of Curaçao maybe a better view on what she is actually doing instead of misleading information in the media. According to Metzger (2007) skills to verify a source don’t change, but the understanding of how to use these skills to change. In other words, technology changes, but the concept remains.

This leads to my statement:
The only way to fight misleading information is by making the new generation aware of the effects of misleading information.

Sources:

Anspach, N., M. (2017). The New Personal Influence: How Our Facebook Friends Influence the News We Read, Political Communication, 34:4, 590-606, DOI: 10.1080/10584609.2017.1316329

Cook, J., Lewandowsky, S. (2011), The Debunking Handbook. St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland. November 5. ISBN 978-0-646-56812-6. [http://sks.to/debunk]

Festinger (1957) A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford University Press.

Kalogeropoulos, A., Fletcher, R., & Nielsen, R. K. (2018). News brand attribution in distributed environments: Do people know where they get their news? New Media & Societyhttps://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818801313

McFalls, E. & Cobb-Roberts, D. (2001). Reducing resistance to diversity through cognitive dissonance instruction. Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 52, No. 2

Metzger, M., J. (2007) Making Sense of Credibility on the Web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American society for information and science and technology, 58(13):2078-2091, 2007

Misleading Data

My experience with misleading data

Normally I would choose a topic that is a bit more known for everyone. However, this time I want to focus on a topic that happened to me personally and always stood me by. I used to do an internship at the local broadcast station in the second year of my bachelor (2014) at the University of Applied sciences in Den Haag (De Haagse Hogeschool). A few weeks before the municipal elections in 2014, I conducted a small survey on the street on a daily basis (an exit-poll). This survey had just one question, I asked the respondents what party they would vote on. So what happened? One day, I had not so much time and it was rainy. I only had twelve participants who answered my poll. Seven out of the twelve participants wanted to vote on the same party, the Socialist Party (de SP). Initially, the idea of this survey was to combine all the answers and provide an overview of the answers a day before the election. However, things went differently. My mentor published an article that day about the twelve participants I interviewed. But used misleading text to cover up the small sample size I had collected. In my small sample size, 7 out of 12 participants wanted to vote on the Socialistic Party. Instead of reporting the data I acquired, my mentor stated that the Socialistic Party was going ahead towards the elections.

What could go wrong?

A local broadcast station has not much attention, right? Well, it went horribly wrong, the alderman in the council of this party published the article on his Facebook page.

wehouder nieuw

Not long after the alderman published this article, the former leader of the Socialist Party, Emile Roemer, published this article on his personal Facebook as well and said that Socialistic Party was doing really well towards the municipal elections in my city.

Roemer

Why I can’t forget about what happened

Just to be clear, I was surprised and felt betrayed by my mentor that he published this article. Because it was an internship, I did not want to make a big deal out of it. It was not only misleading, but I did this poll at the middle of the day, therefore people who have their own company or have a busy job, were not asked. So the recruitment of participants was biased.


Looking at the literature

A lot has been written about “low-quality research”. Ole Bjorn Rekdal discussed that the new media (e.g. social media) play a big part in providing misleading data. But what can enhance this survey in order to provide more reliable information? Treadwell discussed some points to improve the validity and reliability of a research, I think the following points can be applied to the above-mentioned case:

  • Selection bias, a more diverse sample of people from different disciplines should have joined.
  • Sample size, the sample size was not big enough in order to generalize the results.
  • Experimenter bias, the next time a survey like this is conducted, try to give the participants a private place to give their answers. Otherwise, the experimenter might influence the participants their answer.

Tips for future surveys

There were many things wrong with my survey. I want to give you some tips about conducting a survey, so you will be more prepared and you won’t make the mistakes I made. Back in 1942 Donald Rugg conducted a study about wording in questions. He found that if you word questions in different ways, this would lead to different outcomes. So always think good about how you would ask something in a survey.

Fowler and Cosenza conducted a study about writing effective questions. Questions can be interpreted differently. Effective questions try to be as clear as possible to reduce misunderstanding. When conducting a survey, think about the vocabulary of your participants and if it matches with your question. Try to avoid questions where you ask the participant if they remember an event over a period of time that’s longer than 3 months ago (e.g. asking the number of times the participant went to a restaurant). And don’t try to ask multiple questions within one question. Prepare your constructs before your constructs well before you conduct the survey.

Do you know what a construct is? A construct is an item you want to measure. “Buying behavior” is an example of a construct. By measuring this construct with several questions you can get more information. But, these questions you use need to correlate with each other in order to measure the same construct. This can easily be analyzed with SPSS, a factor analysis shows how well questions correlate with each other and if they measure the same construct.

Meyer wrote about the elements of a survey. He gave a clear overview of what elements you must think about when conducting a survey. According to him, a survey contains:

  1. An information goal or set of goals
  2. A sample
  3. A questionnaire
  4. A collection method
  5. Coding and analysis

By using all these tips, your future survey will hopefully contain less misleading data compared to mine.

My final statement on this topic

Exit-polls with more question, are better to measure the intentions of the voters compared to exit-polls with just one question.

Literature:

Fowler, F.J., & Cosenza, C. (2008). Writing effective questions. In E.D. de
Leeuw, J.J. Hox, & D.A. Dillman (Eds.), International Handbook of Survey
Methodology (pp.136-160). New York, London: Taylor & Francis.

Meyer, Ph. (2002). Surveys. In Precision Journalism. A reporter’s introduction
to social science methods (pp. 99-130). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman &
Littlefield. An online version:

Rekdal, O. B. (2014). Academic urban legends. Social Studies of Science, 44(4), 638–654. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312714535679

Rugg, D. (1941). Experiments in wording questions: II. The Public Opinion
Quarterly, 5(1), 91-92.

TREADWELL, D. F. (2011). Introducing communication research: paths of inquiry. Thousand Oaks, Calif, SAGE Publications.