Media Accuracy

Our data are displayed here in five infographics, one for each of five policy domains: defense, welfare, health, education and the environment. In each domain, we provide summary statistics on the volume and accuracy of media coverage for both newspapers and television networks. To see one of these infographics, select a policy below.

How should we interpret these data? Here are a few examples of findings based on data in each policy domain:

  • The largest papers produce the highest volumes of policy content, but these are not necessarily the most accurate newspapers in each domain. For instance, the Washington Post is highest for both volume and accuracy in their reporting on defense spending. Even as the Post is highest in volume in health and education, however, they are not highest in accuracy.
  • The Houston Chronicle produced the most accurate coverage of education spending, the Denver Post produced some of the most accurate coverage of environmental spending, and the Boston Globe produced the most accurate coverage of health spending.
  • The accuracy of news coverage of government spending in defense is higher than in any other policy domain. The accuracy of welfare and environmental coverage is especially low. As indicated by negative accuracy scores, in some cases media outlets appear to move against rather than with policy change.
  • Amongst TV networks, MSNBC produced the most accurate coverage of spending change in all but one domestic domain examined here.

The most important message in these data, we believe, is that there are policy domains in which there are highly accurate media sources, but this is not the case across all domains and sources. We expect that informed policy preferences and government accountability will be higher when media coverage is more accurate.

(For detailed information about how exactly we calculate accuracy, see Methodology. For some additional clarifications and caveats regarding our methods, see the Explainer.)