The truth is out there

August 8th, 2011 by Gemma Ellis

In the wake of allegations of plagiarism and phone hacking, the good reputation of the British media suffered a further blow last week when it emerged that a story featured in several of the major news outlets – including the BBC, Daily Mail and The Telegraph – was an elaborate hoax.

The article in question stemmed from phoney psychometric consulting company, AptiQuant, which claimed that Internet Explorer (IE) users possessed significantly lower intelligence than those using other browsers. As well as being highly offensive, the report was flagged up by readers of the BBC website as completely and utterly untrue.

As shocking as this incident is, the IE IQ fabrication isn’t the only dubious tale to feature in the press of late. The recent case of Thornton v The Telegraph also brought issues of culpability to the fore, in which journalist Sarah Thornton successfully sued acclaimed author Lynn Barber for libel. Barber was found to have made a slew of untrue claims in her review of Thornton’s non-fiction narrative, Seven Days in the Art World; effectively, she was judged guilty of lying for calling Thornton a liar.

While I don’t wish to get into a debate on the wider issues surrounding the Barber review and the fine line between subjective criticism and categorical falsity, what this story and the IE IQ hoax signify is a greater need for accountability in the media.

I am not advocating that journalists move to a system of stringent referencing complete with academic Cliff notes, but they certainly need to stop these incidents happening. If, as the marketing bods so often like to tell us, content is king, then getting the facts right should surely play an important part of this reign.


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