Audit Notes: Online polls, local TV news, HuffPost art

The LA Times runs with a shaky survey on wage theft

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple picks apart poor Los Angeles Times coverage of an Internet survey that found that 90 percent of fast-food workers had their wages stolen.

It was paid for by a labor group and had all kinds of methodological problems, like inducing people to take the survey on Facebook by offering the chance to win a gift card.

To compile the results, Hart conducted an online survey of 1,088 respondents via Facebook “who work in fast food restaurants in the top 10 metro areas across the country.” Recruitment got a little help from inducements, as the Facebook ad above notes: “FAST FOOD EMPLOYEE? 2 MINUTES, AND YOU COULD SCORE $100 BUCKS.” Guy Molyneux, a partner at Hart Research Associates, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “They had to also confirm to us that they work in a fast-food restaurant.”

Helpful, but not good enough for outlets that have promulgated exacting standards as to what survey results are worth passing along to the public.

The LA Times ran its story without getting comment from the fast-food industry, and tells Wemple it couldn’t have because the poll was embargoed.

That’s a poor excuse. The LAT should want to get scooped on a PR-planted story based on a sketchy poll.

Mother Jones looks at disturbing Pew research on consolidation in local television news, which tens of millions of people rely on to get their news:

In terms of dollar value, more than 75 percent of the nearly 300 full-power local TV stations purchased last year were acquired by just three media giants. The largest, Sinclair Broadcasting, will reach almost 40 percent of the population if its latest purchases are approved by federal regulators. Sinclair’s CEO has said he wants to keep snapping up stations until the company’s market saturation hits 90 percent. (And that’s not a typo.)

Now here’s where things really get sketchy: Media conglomerates such as Sinclair have bought up multiple news stations in the same regions—in nearly half of America’s 210 television markets, one company owns or manages at least two local stations, and a lot of these stations now run very similar or even completely identical newscasts, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. One in four local stations relies entirely on shared content…

As it stands, some local stations simply share office space or vans or helicopters, but others take the overlap much further. To offer one example, CBS and NBC affiliates in Syracuse, New York, use separate anchor teams but run nearly identical stories produced by a shared group of reporters. In some markets, partner stations run virtually identical newscasts, albeit at different times. And then there are stations like the CBS and NBC affiliates in Honolulu, which don’t even bother staggering the times: They run identical newscasts simultaneously.

For more on this, read CJR’s piece on the phenomenon from last September.

— It’s hard to illustrate some stories, we’re well aware. But the Huffington Post needs to execute better editorial judgment than this:

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,