This page is the Media Horseshit Menu

This section covers unintentional misreporting in the media – significant mistakes, omissions, ineptitude, etc – as opposed to intentional propaganda/PR/spin (the latter is covered in the Toxic Slime section).

General commentary on media horseshit:
• Media horseshit or toxic slime? >
• Grey areas >
• Media horseshit database >
• Contacting journalists & editors >

Some examples of media horseshit (from our database):
• BBC political editor's praise for Tony Blair >
• Establishment TV >
• "Flexible" jobs >
• Tabloid media wrath over Brass Eye >
• Bible-based free market economics >
• The future of work as previously predicted >
• Signs of the times – a horseshit medley >
• Poverty & work >
• Unsupported media generalisations >
• Wage slavery TV >
• Web content goes mainstream >
• Bush is the Antichrist says Pope >
• Quotes on media-related horseshit >

Media horseshit or toxic slime?

Where there's no evidence to suggest intent to distort (at whatever level – journalistic, editorial, production, commissioning, etc) the fallacious material falls into our "horseshit" category. This doesn't necessarily mean it's unintentional, but merely that there's no evidence to suggest otherwise. Most media fallacies fall into this category.

Grey areas

If in doubt, we assume that media distortions are unintentional, but there are a couple of grey areas:

• Government/business propaganda reported by unwitting journalists as "news". Are the journalists really so unwitting, or do they just want to keep their jobs? It's usually impossible to know. (Although sometimes the evidence is damning, as in the case highlighted by The Center for Media and Democracy [USA], which found that 77 television stations "actively disguised" sponsored content – PR for General Motors, Intel, Pfizer, Capital One, etc – to make it appear as their own news reports. Source: PR Watch, 6/4/06.

• Systemically distorted (or "biased") coverage. The grey area here is that it may be symptomatic of genuinely held worldviews rather than of conspiratorial intent to "slant" material. It might result from institutional factors (eg training/education/job market) which have little to do with conscious dissemination of propaganda.

Media horseshit database

One aim of Media Hell is to build a database of examples of significant media errors, ignorance and ineptitude, hyperlinked to our hierarchical fallacies database and our toxic slime database. We think this will provide a useful resource. We have large amounts of raw data that we're currently working to incorporate into such a database. But we also need your input. We want examples of significant errors, omissions, unintentional distortions, etc, in media coverage (preferably with source details). Please contact us.

Contacting journalists & editors

It's often worthwhile contacting those responsible for errors. We've been sending emails and letters to journalists/editors for over a decade. Many reply – including the well-known ones. There are a few points to bear in mind:

• Be concise. A short paragraph or two at most.
• Keep to the facts. Avoid over-assertion of opinion.
• Don't address them as if they were the "enemy".
• Avoid sounding like a stereotypical "strident campaigner".

On clear-cut factual matters, they may acknowledge their mistake. On matters of opinion/semantics, it's less likely. The trick is to present a purely factual case, even on matters which arouse your opinions.

We've provided numerous examples of emails to journalists and editors (together with their responses, where applicable) and we also include a list of email addresses that you can use.

You might also consider emailing the letters pages in newspapers (see our guide) or formally lodging a complaint. We've had some success with formal complaints on BBC news reporting – but it can be time-consuming overcoming the resistance to significant complaints.

• Email addresses of journalists >
• Letters to newspapers (email addresses) >