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Busted: 'Countdown' uses Sentinel's reporting without credit

From the archive: This story is more than 10 years old.

Busted: 'Countdown' uses Sentinel's reporting without credit

A note from the editor

MSNBC's "Countdown" lifted a quote — without credit — about Fox News misinforming voters from a columnist Friday night.

Jimmy Zuma, who writes "Smart v. Stupid" for from his base in Washington, D.C., was one of the first to write about a new report that shows Fox News viewers are misinformed.

Zuma's column, versions of which also appeared on Salon and Technorati, was posted early Thursday afternoon, before other news organizations picked up the story and gave it banner headlines on Friday. The piece attracted readers and attention from around the world.

The column included an interview with Clay Ramsay, who worked on the survey for the University of Maryland's World Public Opinion. Part of that interview, as posted Thursday:

Are Fox viewers simply people who watch the station to reinforce misinformed views they already have?

"No," says Clay Ramsay, lead researcher for the project. "Even Democratic voters who watched Fox News were more misinformed than others."

While all cable news earns some criticism from Ramsay, "Fox displays a particular pattern of misinformation. The more you watch the more inaccurate your views."

From "Countdown" (1:43 in the video):

A lead researcher for the project says Fox viewer syndrome doesn't just affect those who identify as conservative.

"Even Democratic voters who watched Fox News were more misinformed than others. ... Fox displays a particular patter of misinformation. The more you watch the more inaccurate your views."

— Clay Ramsay, Lead Researcher
Source: World Public, Dec. 10

So how do we know "Countdown" lifted the quote from Zuma's reporting?

Due to a mistake in our editing workflow, we identified Ramsay as the "lead researcher" on the survey. His title is actually "Research Director." That's a tiny error, but one we take seriously. The fix was made Thursday in Technorati's version of the column, but the Sentinel dropped the ball.

For that we apologize.

The other apology that's necessary is one by MSNBC to the Sentinel and to Jimmy Zuma.

Zuma's a great contributor to He doesn't just offer his analysis on issues, he puts his fedora on and makes phone calls to track down information, and even gets away from his desk to investigate in the field.

And he offers our readers, all the way across the country here in Tucson, that effort because he believes in our mission of reinventing journalism.

As an organization, we're committed being open about where we get information and who we quote. The whole truth matters to us.

The quote "Countdown" swiped was from the interview Zuma did, not from the study. The only place that quote appears is in Zuma's column. The only place Ramsay is referred to as "lead researcher" was in Zuma's column. (We've made a correction, by the way. With a note as to what was changed, because that's how we roll our fingers over the keyboard.)

We certainly appreciate the staff of "Countdown" having enough respect for our reporting to copy it verbatim, tiny errors and all. Breaking news before the lumbering legacy mass media is important to us.

While I realize that Keith Olbermann's off on vacation, and there's likely a reduced staff because of the holidays, you'd think an organization with a budget that's literally millions of times that of could follow the lead of an enterprising news columnist and, maybe, perhaps, pick up the telephone.

Somewhere amongst the pundits, commentators, analysts, spokesmodels and flacks, somebody must have a notebook and a pen.

Or, failing that, at least offer credit where credit is due? As Zuma tweeted to the network: "Glad U used it; wish it correctly attributed."

Another salient point from Zuma's column:

The study found that the best informed voters are people who get their news from written sources (either paper or online).

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