Inaccuracy in Reporting at ABC News

I was surprised to see this article by ABC News just a few heartbeats before the election, an un-named reporter riffs off my blog post cataloging Obama vs McCain social networking stats:

“A social network researcher says you can expect Barack Obama to win the election. Analyzing the candidates social networking pages, Jermiah Owyang found Obama has more supporters than John McCain.

According to Ownyang’s research, Obama almost 4 times the number of supporters on facebook.com & myspace.com.

Ownyang cites two reasons for the difference. “[The] Obama campaign moved quicker to social networking and social media, McCain only recently launched his own social network with KickApps.”

He also says Obama supporters are also much more likely to use social networking sites.”

As much as I would love to be a political analyst, I cannot take credit for predicting the election results, so the first sentence isn’t quite accurate. There’s likely a correlation between social network activity, but it’s certainly not a causation of the win happening –nor can it be an accurate indicator of political outcomes as the sample size doesn’t take into account the average voter. Furthermore. it’s amazing my name was incorrectly spelled, not once –but twice.

In the true spirit of the crowd, the commenters in the article actually self-correct, a trend we often see on blog posts. Perhaps a future social mechanism could be developed that let’s them edit (or suggest edits) to keep the article accurate and helpful.

  • I’m delighted both by the pickup and the self-corrective intention of the community.

  • The essence of Wikipedia in the blog space… Their experience is that is “usually” works. But in politics, the potential for manipulated behavior can be strong. Think about the McCain persona before, during and after the campaign. It is food-for-thought regarding the powerful influence of politics on behavior.

  • There are two trends that bothered me:

    (1) The use of paid text links to newspaper articles without the permission of the publisher or author. It seems to me that this practice is tantamount to being able to re-write the headline of an article to suit one’s own agenda. There are a number of studies that show how subtle differences in the wording of a headline title create massive differences in the conclusions drawn after reading the article.

    (2) The apparent willingness of MSM to accept blog posts or twitter memes as factually accurate, without taking the time to factcheck. I suppose this follows in the grand tradition of taking poll results as fact, without considering the methodology used to create the sampling audience. The meme that “no one in Silicon Valley” supported McCain creates its own kind of groundswell, McCain supporters like Meg Whitman notwithstanding.

    In these cases, it appears to be easier for the community to accept ideologically acceptable white lies than it is for the community to take the time and effort to police itself.

  • @James what about articles as moderated wiki pages, so that the original author(s) could approve/disapprove of edits?

  • While I am happy that Obama won, even though I met John McCain before, it is important to note the race was quite close until the beginning of serious economic problems & the choice of Sarah Palin will probably stand as a mistake (there was definitely a political shift when the market started tanking).

    That being said, I do think that Obama’s overall campaign, including the use of non traditional media, did help the campaign a great deal. I would expect this trend to be more present in the next Republican campaign.

    P.S. Congrats for getting a mention…even if they did spell your name wrong.

  • “Perhaps a future social mechanism could be developed that let’s them edit (or suggest edits) to keep the article accurate and helpful.”

    I was delighted to read that as it just so happens I’m working on such a mechanism at the moment.

  • There are two trends that bothered me:

    (1) The use of paid text links to newspaper articles without the permission of the publisher or author. It seems to me that this practice is tantamount to being able to re-write the headline of an article to suit one's own agenda. There are a number of studies that show how subtle differences in the wording of a headline title create massive differences in the conclusions drawn after reading the article.

    (2) The apparent willingness of MSM to accept blog posts or twitter memes as factually accurate, without taking the time to factcheck. I suppose this follows in the grand tradition of taking poll results as fact, without considering the methodology used to create the sampling audience. The meme that “no one in Silicon Valley” supported McCain creates its own kind of groundswell, McCain supporters like Meg Whitman notwithstanding.

    In these cases, it appears to be easier for the community to accept ideologically acceptable white lies than it is for the community to take the time and effort to police itself.

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