In 1936, journalism professor and former magazine editor Mitchell Charnley published the first accuracy audit of American newspapers.
Charnley selected a sample of news articles, identified the sources quoted in them and mailed those sources a survey. The survey asked objective questions, such as whether their name was misspelled. It also asked subjective questions, such as whether their comments were taken out of context. The idea was that these sources had specific knowledge about the article, and could therefore provide valuable feedback on its accuracy.
More than 70 years since “Preliminary Notes on a Study of Newspaper Accuracy” came out, researchers have refined and expanded Charnley’s so-called accuracy check study.
The largest accuracy study of U.S. papers was published in 2007 and found one of the highest error rates on record — just over 59 percent of articles contained some type of error, according to sources. Charnley’s first study found a rate of roughly 50 percent. Read more