Professor Brendan Nyhan, a member of the Steering Committee of the Program in Quantitative Social Science (QSS), and three Dartmouth undergraduates recently published an article in the Journal of Experimental Political Science on media retractions. The article, titled "The Corrections Dilemma: Media Retractions Increase Belief Accuracy But Decrease Trust," is available online.
Among the co-authors of this article are Joshua Freitag '23, majoring in QSS and currently writing an honors thesis under the direction of Dr. Elsa Voytas, and Madeline Gochee '23 and Mitchell Ransden '23, both of whom are majoring in Government. Josh is planning on attending law school after he graduates from Dartmouth. Madeline will be producing macroeconomic research and aiding in investment decisions at Bridgewater Associates next year. Mitchell is planning on working in policy research before attending graduate school. The other co-authors of the article are Kristy Roschke and Dan Gillmor, both of Arizona State University. Dr. Voytas will be joining QSS as an assistant professor as of July 2023.
Funding for the article was provided by Dartmouth's office of Undergraduate Research & Advising (UGAR). According to Dr. Margaret Funnell, who directs UGAR, the opportunity for undergraduates to engage in cutting-edge faculty-mentored research is a distinguishing feature of a Dartmouth education. Dartmouth students aren't just learning – they are participating in the creation of knowledge.
The abstract of the article is as follows:
Why are prominent news media retractions so rare? Using data from a survey experiment in which respondents view simulated Twitter newsfeeds, we demonstrate the dilemma facing news organizations that have published false information. Encouragingly, media retractions are effective at informing the public – they increase the accuracy of news consumers' beliefs about the retracted reporting more than information from third parties questioning the original reporting or even the combination of the two. However, trust in the news outlet declines after a retraction, though this effect is small both substantively and in standardized terms relative to the increase in belief accuracy. This reputational damage persists even if the outlet issues a retraction before a third party questions the story. In a social media environment that frequently subjects reporting to intense scrutiny, the journalistic mission of news organizations to inform the public will increasingly conflict with organizational incentives to avoid admitting error.