One recent example is the widespread report this month that Saudi Arabia would create a city just for women. ABC News, published a typical headline, for example: “Saudi Women to Get Their Own City.”
Hundreds of mainstream media outlets covered this story in the same way. It was a lie.
It all started with a banal press release issued by the Saudi government, which had a headline that read in part: “First Industrial City being readied for Women in the Kingdom.”
The press release very clearly specified that the “city is not closed or not intended for women only.” The news was that special areas inside factories and offices would be set aside for women workers.
Still, one publication reported a “women-only city” and then others wrote their pieces based on the erroneous reporting of the first. A domino effect took place, and the City of Women became a well-documented “fact.”
Again, the me-too stories weren’t based on truth or fact. The “fact” would be that some other publication reported a city of women. That was a fact. What they actually reported, however was a lie, because they reported a false claim as fact.
It took a blogger writing for Al Jazeera to set the record straight.
The question is: Why does the mainstream news media feel comfortable lying about topics like technology and countries like Saudi Arabia? What do these two topics have in common?
In both cases, the topics are considered by newspaper reporters and editors as fundamentally unknowable, exotic, mysterious and, in any event, surrounded by hype and lies anyway. They’re extreme topics where extreme things happen. So when some extreme-sounding story comes along, it must be true!
That’s my theory, anyway.
There are many reasons to save newspapers. But fact checking, investigative reporting and maintain journalistic standards of fairness and integrity on certain subjects like technology aren’t among those reasons.
For that, thank goodness we have bloggers.