Free Press Launches Media Watchdog Site: mediaFAIL

Ever watch a segment on your local TV news or read a story in your local newspaper that you felt was badly sourced, underreported, misleading or just plain dumb enough to even be considered news? Usually, your only recourse was to call the station and complain, write a letter to the editor (which the newspaper may or may not print), or contact the publication’s ombudsman (if it even has one). Well, now’s your chance to vent about bad news stories anytime you want before the whole world. The national media reform organization, Free Press, has just launched a new website called mediaFAIL.

Unlike other media watchdog sites like Media Matters for America or Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) where content is chosen by their staffs, mediaFAIL is a user-generated site, allowing news consumers to submit and comment on stories they find that represent the worst examples of mainstream media sensationalism, lies or outright irresponsibility. Users vote on, or “FAIL,” the examples of bad reporting, and those receiving the highest number of FAILs are featured on the site’s main page. Once you set up a free account and submit “failed” stories, you can share those stories with friends. The site also features links to actions and campaigns by Free Press and other media reform groups working to improve our media system. Not surprisingly, as of this posting, the journalistically-challenged FOX News topped the FAIL list, but CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and even NPR also got taken to task.

MediaFAIL looks like an important and useful addition to the many ways we can hold the media accountable. But because the site is dependent upon users – not professional media experts – there’s still some subjectivity involved, so people can look at the stories themselves to see if the complaints are justified. Unfortunately, since we Americans no longer gather around a news outlet or news anchor that we all agree gives us the facts – like the Walter Cronkites and Edward R. Murrows of yesteryear – someone’s FAIL may be someone else’s gospel.