Information Quality in the news

The gang over at Tuppenceworth have done some crude but somewhat scientific study of the quality of information being presented by Irish print media. The basic hypothesis (rephrased somewhat to Information Quality terms) is that purchasers of newspapers have an expectation that the stories presented will be properly researched pieces of journalism and not advertorial, infotainment or just plain rehashing of press-releases from vested interests and newspapers should meet that expectation.

The findings are disturbing in that the percentage of actual ‘real’ journalism would seem to be a lot less than one might expect, as this graphic of the content in the Sunday Independent shows…

So what does this mean? If quality information is defined as information which meets or exceeds the expectations of information consumers, and if the expectation we have of our print news papers is to… well print news… and to find out the things that we need to know rather than, as it would appear, to bury real news in wrappers of advertorial or ‘reports on reports’ that fail to ask incisive but obvious questions then that expectation is not being met.

If, however, your expectation is for substantial opinion pieces masquerading as reportage then the statistics suggest that your expectation is being met in spades.

For example, why have no Irish newspapers followed up on the link between the State Claims Agency/HSE report on medical errors and the shocking cases of unnecessary surgery that popped into the media just a few weeks before hand? This is an easy link to make, easy to communicate and doubtless a mine of stories. And the costs of non-quality to the Irish Healthcare system are potentially immense, which makes it a political story in the run up to a Budget and a General Election. Did they bother… if they did, could someone send me the clipping because it passed me by.

Also, why, given that the Electoral Register issue is still trundling along have none of the journos that I sent information to during the summer thought of contacting me or the Association I represent looking for a different angle? The clean up currently underway isn’t actually fixing the problems, it is simply treating the symptom. I’m blue in the fingertips writing on that particular topic, but previous posts can be found in the archives

I hope that the boys and girls over at Tuppenceworth take stock over Christmas and refine their methodology to be a bit more scientific and objective. I’d welcome the chance to assist them in that review, including steps to increase the statistical ‘soundness’ of the assessment. This is valuable research that should be the subject of media coverage somewhere. So far the nearest thing to coverage that it has received is this from the Irish Independent. Apparently if the message isn’t worth listening to you should try to attack the credibilty of the medium if not the messenger.

Ironic given that it is the credibility of the print media that has been called into question.