When you’re in the business of analyzing the media, you pick up on trends rather quickly. For instance, most stories about Donald Trump are full of spin and opinion, whether an outlet is considered liberal or conservative. And certain other topics tend to receive dramatic coverage across the board, like North Korea, natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
When the news of the Pentagon’s UFO program broke, we wondered what the media would do with the story. After all, there’s government secrecy, millions of taxpayer dollars, phenomena that may go beyond scientific explanation, and the possibility of discovering extraterrestrial life.
Surprisingly, the total integrity ratings weren’t as low as what we typically see. In fact, the average ratings were higher than six other stories we looked at.
Included in our analysis were the two outlets that broke the story, The New York Times and Politico. The coverage was distorted to a degree, although some of it may have been due to the subject matter. For example, there wasn’t a lot of specific information about the program and its findings, but that’s probably because most of the information is classified. Take a look at how these outlets scored compared to stories they’ve covered in the past.
Although only six examples are used in the comparison, the trend they represent is fairly consistent. Out of the total 15 results, only one of them earned a higher score (Fox News’ coverage of the North Korean missile).
How’s it possible that the events we can actually measure — a hurricane, a speech, legislation — end up with greater distortion than reported UFO sightings that we cannot?
That has to say something about the state of our media.
Jens Erik Gould
Jens is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News