How can you tell a better quality newspaper? Data has arrived in the most unexpected of forms.

2016 was the year in which fake news, spread by poor quality media sources, became a global concern. But what studies can you do to accurately, honestly tell you which big newspapers are truly lacking in journalistic standards?


A good standard of journalism, for instance, will always look for two sources, or one certain source, before confirming a story because human bias is so pervasive and problematic. Bad journalism will print whatever they can find which proves their own biases or tells readers what they want to hear. But how do you check which papers actually have this kind of quality journalism?


Well, the surprising answer is by using sports journalism, specifically football/soccer transfer rumours. These are a big thing in British media, and every major newspaper indulges daily transfer news. What’s more, you can judge the accuracy of this kind of news very easily: you can look back in a few months and judge whether each piece of news was true or false, because the player either will or won’t have transferred.


Because transfers involve human characters – players, agents, managers, families – you can’t ever expect to be 100% accurate, but you can analyse to see if some news sources are doing a lot better than others. And the results – from a BBC study of their own daily column of collated ‘transfer rumours’ – provide evidence which back three important points which I have been making for a while.



Fig 1.

Which is the most reliable media source?

Percentage of reported deals that did happen


*Only includes sources which featured 10 or more times


The first point, as the above chart shows, is that the Guardian has journalistic integrity which is wrongly deemed as ‘left-wing bias’. They don’t print false news, they check facts, and they hold people in the public eye to account when they are wrong. Telling the truth is deemed a political choice, and as a result, the Guardian are labelled left-wing. However, on matters where there is no right/left wing, like in sport, you can see that it is about something more than political choices – it’s about honesty.


As you will note, the Guardian leads the field, ahead of even the popular sports-specialist sources, which are famed for their sports journalism and specialist networks, such as Goal and Sky Sports.



Fig 2.

Which daily newspaper is the most accurate?


*Only includes sources featured more than 10 times


The second thing of note is the other side of the story. Despite being one of the most popular newspapers in the world – with click-bait figures to match the best – the Mail gets the facts right less than half of the time. That is less successful than flipping a coin (which you would still have a couple of if you didn’t buy this particular paper).


You will note that the BBC, in its ever ‘neutral’ position, fails to include the rest of the click-bait tabloids, but you can bet papers like The Sun would be here if they had managed to get above the Mail, and you will note their conspicuous absence.


A final point to note is that this kind of study should question what we deem as ‘press neutrality’. The BBC is one of the most widely read and trusted media sources in the world. The longer it pretends that it and other media sources are all the same, and simply a matter of personal taste – regardless of how little emphasis other sources place on fact-checking and honesty – the longer it will be silently contributing to that lie.


It is a political stance to decide not to criticise poor journalistic standards, as we know certain standards lead to better, more accurate and more honest news. And, as we are all aware, the BBC should not take political stances, it should take only rational, independent stances of integrity. If the BBC will not investigate and report facts like this, how is it neutral?

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