Why Do Newspapers Keep Publishing Bogus Piracy Numbers From Lobbyists As Fact?

from the why-newspapers-are-dying dept

With all this whining about how the death of newspapers will somehow lead to the "end" of investigative reporting, it has to be asked why newspaper reporters never seem to tire of rewriting industry press releases full of bogus numbers as factual? If newspaper reporters are really so great at investigative reporting -- shouldn't they be questioning the bogus stats? We've seen this for years in reports on "piracy" stats, which are almost always calculated by industry lobbyists who have every incentive in the world to blow the numbers out of proportion. Looking at the details, it's not at all difficult for anyone to realize that the stats are completely bogus -- but, for some reason, these lobbyists can always find press willing to restate the numbers as fact, and that often leads to a nice virtuous circle, whereby industry lobbyists and politicians can then point to the news report to support their bogus piracy numbers.

The latest gullible reporter? Tony Wong of the Toronto Star, who has written an article that probably could have been written every year for the last decade about the awful threat of piracy to the satellite TV industry. What's amusing is that it really does look just like an article years ago, even quoting bogus 2001 "piracy" stats and then just saying "that number is likely far higher today." But the reporter does nothing to verify this at all. He then goes on to talk about how the satellite TV companies are "fighting back," with a "tough new encryption system." I remember reading nearly identical stories from a decade ago, about some great new encryption scheme that would wipe out satellite TV piracy. Yet here we are in 2009, rather than 1999, reading the exact same article. Isn't it the reporters' job to ask questions about both the bogus basis for the numbers and the fact that the industry has been trotting out the same "fighting back! stronger encryption!" story for over a decade? No wonder newspapers are collapsing.

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  1. identicon
    Weird Harold, 21 Mar 2009 @ 8:38am


    A very interesting blog posts that shines some light on the numbers. It also supports my theory of the bad data echo that some blogs seem to rely on. Mike is echoing numbers that were in another blog, that point to another story, that didn't really check the numbers. Each one amplifies the supposed correctness of the numbers, and in this case, you find that the numbers are generated from "academics with a clear point of view on copyright issues.". So when it comes to talking about out of date or slanted numbers, well, Mike must think that only means for the other side, not for him.

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