the kicker

New study

Tracks openness in media orgs
June 13, 2007

The University of Maryland’s International Center for Media and the Public Agenda released a study today looking at twenty-five of the world’s biggest news Web sites to see which are best–and worst–in five categories:

1. The outlet’s corrections policy: Willingness to openly correct mistakes.

2. The outlet’s willingness to give information about their corporate (or other) owners.

3. The outlet’s candor about its internal staff policies.

4. The outlet’s candor about its internal reporting and editing policies.

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5. The outlet’s openness to reader comments and criticism.

Of the twenty-five sites scoured, U.K.’s The Guardian came in first, with a 3.8 score, while The New York Times came in second, and NPR took the third slot. The bottom of the pile was represented by the U.K.’s Sky News, with a pathetic 0.4 rating. Sky just inched out Time magazine, which weighed in with a dreadful 0.6 score. Check the site for the messy middle, which sees FOX news tie with Yhe Economist and ABC News–all three of which beat out CNN.

The study’s conclusions say it all: “The recent Libby case dramatically illustrated not only the hubris of Washington power politics, but the lack of commitment of mainstream media to journalistic transparency.” Pulitzer winner Sydney Schanberg says in the intro that, “The press calls for transparency by government, corporations, and everyone else. But here the reporters reject transparency for themselves, and yet they say they are practicing good journalism. The public needs a fuller explanation, and that can only come from the reporters themselves.”

The authors conclude that “Journalists are not only reluctant to explain what they know and how they know it, their news organizations are also often loathe to admit mistakes, and loathe to publicly state their policies regarding their internal journalistic and ethical guidelines.”

Paul McLeary is a former CJR staff writer. Since 2008, he has covered the Pentagon for Foreign Policy, Defense News, Breaking Defense, and other outlets. He is currently a defense reporter for Politico.