The following is a news analysis
Today I received an inquiry from BuzzFeed reporter Tasneem Nashrulla that appeared so sloppy— even for a writer at a quasi-news site– that it was particularly remarkable.
First, the reporter contacted me only after the article that mentioned me was published. (That’s sort of frowned on in journalism circles.)
Then, when I pointed out the reporter’s errors and misimpressions, and asked for a correction, the reporter and his or her editor declined.
The subject matter was a Media Bias chart I constructed some time ago. (See here.)
See what you think of the BuzzFeed position.
Original email from reporter:
This is Tasneem Nashrulla, a reporter with BuzzFeed News. I’m writing about President Trump’s claims this morning about Google search results being “rigged” against him to shut out conservative media outlets.
He appears to have seen this on last night’s episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight which cited a PJ Media study that used your Media Bias Chart from 2017 to analyze Google search results on two different computers to test the premise that Google search results had an anti-conservative bias.
I saw that you updated your chart today. Could you tell me what prompted you to update the chart today and what changes did you make to the original chart?
You had earlier included a link to this Lorain County Community College site which contained a list of the political leanings of magazines and newspapers. The link no longer appears in your article. Did you delete the link today and if so, why?
You included a link to a Pew Research Center chart as a source for your media bias chart. The Pew chart says it measures audience bias, not media bias. Can you explain how this study factored into your chart?
Do you believe that your chart is an accurate representation of media bias and if it can be effectively used to analyze Google search results to show that Google has an anti-conservative bias?
We’ve published our story on the study, and will update it with your responses.
I did not update chart today. Can you tell me what prompted you to make that allegation?
I did not change the original chart today. Again, please let me know what makes you make that allegation?
If I do update the chart in the future it will be to add new items or change items based on feedback.
I didn’t delete any links or make changes to the article.
Yes I think it’s a pretty accurate representation obviously because I wouldn’t aim to create a chart with an inaccurate representation, but since much rests on matters of opinion, that’s up to the beholder.
Please read the article for caveats and notes such as: Compiling such a chart is obviously difficult for many reasons, some of them having to do with space. The spacing should be considered relative and not an indicator of absolute position. A number of the information sources technically belong on top of one another.
As I stated in my article, there are many views and alternates such as the ones I linked to in the article:
My chart adds to the charts that are out there and can be considered alongside them or as people choose.
I then read the BuzzFeed article that had already been published and followed up with this:
Tasneem, I just looked at your article. I understand what you are aiming to do. Nonetheless, please correct the following misrepresentations:
“Attkisson said she compiled the chart ‘from various sources and your feedback.’ The link on ‘various sources’ is to a Pew Research Center study that measures audience bias, not the alleged bias of an outlet.”
The above sentence implies that I have misrepresented something. I have not.
“The ‘media bias chart’ includes sites that are not news outlets but peddlers of outright unproven conspiracy theories — such as Infowars.”
The above sentence also seems to imply something improper. I didn’t title it a “news” chart, it’s appropriately titled a “media” chart and Infowars is a media organization.
“Attkisson also links to more Infowars content on her website explaining the chart.”
The above statement falsely implies that I used “infowars content” to “explain” my chart (as if for sourcing). That’s untrue. As explained in the article, I included links to alternate/opposing charts and one of them is infowars. The infowars chart is not a source for my information but a competing chart, if you will, with different results. Please make this clear in your correction and let me know when it posts. Thanks.
After checking another of the reporter’s allegations, I followed up with this:
Lastly, I checked and the missing Lorain link you asked about isn’t missing, it’s still there where it alway was on the word “sources” at the beginning of the article.
Check your work.
Here’s the BuzzFeed response:
Sharyl, thanks for getting back. We believe we have represented everything appropriately. I’m happy to add a description of the Lorain link to our story.
I was asking about the date because the dateline on your post that contains the chart shows today’s date.
Attkisson Note: On WordPress, to put an old article on the front page requires putting the current date on the article. This apparently led the BuzzFeed writer to falsely conclude — before asking — that I had mysteriously changed or altered the content of my Media Bias chart. I don’t blame the reporter for not understanding the technology, I’m technically challenged myself, but that’s why it is irresponsible to make assumptions and conclusions before you have full information. We should be wise enough to know when there are things we might not know.
I asked to appeal to a supervisor the BuzzFeed decision not to correct the misimpressions in the article. Tasneem connected me to editor, Tom Namako, who almost immediately stated they weren’t going to change the article and stand by it as written.
I asked Tom Namako about Tasneem’s mistakes. He said it didn’t bother him because they were made in an email to me, not in the story. I suggested this reflected something about the quality of the reporter. He said he has confidence in and stands by his reporter.
I asked that Tom correct the misimpressions given in BuzzFeed article, particularly the false implication that I somehow used InfoWars to explain or develop my chart. I pointed out that the InfoWars link I included was among a selection of links at the bottom of my article pointing to alternate media bias charts that are different than mine– so people can consult different views than mine.
Nonetheless, Tom said he said he wasn’t going to change anything in the article because, “The fact is you linked to a conspiracy theory website.”
And that was that.
(Here’s the uncorrected BuzzFeed article followed by a link to the InfoWars chart and the MediaBias Fact Check chart)