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Langley Advance named most reputable newspaper by ironically sketchy website

December 12, 2010

This just in (a few days ago) from Bob Groeneveld’s blog: the Langley Advance has been named Canada’s most reputable newspaper:

Holy ol’ smokes! We’re number one!

According to the Committee for Newspaper Integrity, the Langley Advance is the world’s most reputable newspaper.

We had languished in third place for some time, but I hadn’t checked the site for several months – and we’ve leap-frogged our most stalwart competition, a fine publication from Brampton, Ontario (which incidentally means that the two most reputable papers in the world are Canadian)..

Our sister paper next door, the Surrey Now, comes in at Number 8 in Canada.

more…

So congrats to Groeneveld and company. Of course the early-90s-state of the website for The Committee for Newspaper Integrity, which puts out these rankings, doesn’t exactly strike confidence in their own reputability, a fact that Groeneveld acknowledges in his blog posting:

I’ll be honest with you – I don’t really know who these guys are, except they claim to be monitoring more than 2,000 newspapers around the world.

And I don’t normally pay much attention to web-based polling as a model of scientific certainty… but hey! when they rank the Langley Advance No. 1 in the entire world… well, then they must be pretty accurate, I suppose – at least, who am I to be a Doubting Thomas, eh?

Well I decided to probe — or at least prod — the site a little deeper.

For a solid starting point, here’s their list of the best and worst of Canadian papers:

Find the table here

And here’s what the Committee for Newspaper Integrity has to say about itself:

It is clear that contemporary news media is being distorted to serve special interests, whether they be political, economic or ideological.

Using the latest statistical tools to map consumer opinions, the project quantifies the rate and scope of this distortion.

You can contribute to this project by rating newspapers and writing commentaries. Just click on a newspaper listed below or search for one.

The Committee for Newspaper and Media Integrity was founded to give consumers an avenue to state their opinions on the objectivity, integrity and quality of newspapers and other media outlets. The Committee uses the latest statistical tools to map consumer opinions and intends to report to the public and to the industry on the findings of this project.

The Committee is headed by two scholars, Aron Ping D’Souza, editor of The Journal Jurisprudence, and H. Trent Moore, editor of the Journal of Applied Economy.

It should also be noted that “the Committee” ranks 2,000 papers around the world (as Groeneveld notes, his paper leads those rankings as well).

Now although I’m not going to quibble with any individual ranking, I can personally think of many tiny newspapers scattered around the country with un- or barely-trained journalists that are probably less reputable than, say, the Winnipeg Free Press. It should also be noted that the No. 4 paper in the world is based in Saudi Arabia — which is not exactly a bastion of free speech.

Fortunately, there is a “Frequently Asked Question” [sic](!) section of the site, which notes that the site only tracks some 2,000 papers around the world, but not every newspaper. It also declares a shocking margin of error of just above 14 per cent (!).

The data was collected in two ways. Before the site’s launch in April of 2010, it used an algorithm to troll the internet for positive and negative comments about various newspapers. It also relies on three-star rankings submitted by the site’s visitors. That means that the same people who post internet comments are the one’s determining how reputable a paper is. Joy.

The site admits that the data is not perfect (a tad of an understatement):

We recognise that the data as presented is not 100% accurate. We are attempting to bring science to an art, and the data will never be 100% accurate, but we are trying our very best and constantly trying to perfect the methodology.”

There is also a contact e-mail, although the authors report that they get a lot of mail so may not be able to answer quickly. If anybody takes these folks seriously, I’m worried. Groeneveld doesn’t and neither should anyone else. If that isn’t obvious at this point you may need to take a refresher course in statistics to re-learn just how huge a 14 per cent margin of error is.

Leave a comment, dammit.

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Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

Seen something else I should know about? Want to write a post? Have better photos than the Creative Commons Flickr pool ones I use? E-mail bclocalreporter(at)gmail.com.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

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