Not entirely sure this is the best place to ask, but I'm looking for a word or phrase that I possibly heard a long time ago. It encapsulates one or two ideas:

The first (and possibly more important) idea is that the more you know about a subject or event, the more you see that news reporting on the subject or event is incorrect.

The second is that because of this, news reporting about something you don't know about should be treated with suspicion.

I thought there was a 'blah blah effect' or 'blah blah principle' describing this, but I've come up empty handed in my searches.

Edit: Maybe I'll clarify slightly. For example, if you know a lot about cars, it will likely seem that many news articles about cars contain incorrect details and factual errors. But at the same time, if you don't know much about computers, news articles will seem to make sense to you. But given your experience with the news about something you know a lot about (cars), you should be distrustful of the news about computers.

Maybe it was only in my head that there was a term for this. If not, I call dibs!

As a side note, if this is not the proper place to ask this, where else could I ask?

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostile_media_effect, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_information_bias I don't know but some things I've been reading...
    – Magari96
    Sep 9, 2014 at 3:32
  • If you were asking for a more generalized meaning, such as "the more you know about something, the easier it is to identify misinformation", it would be a lot easier to find a short phrase for. The closest I can find right now (as an approximate fit) is the adage "if it seems to good to be true, it is".
    – person27
    Sep 9, 2014 at 4:57
  • It's not only in your head. There is a phrase for this. I can't remember what it is. Sep 10, 2014 at 14:15
  • "The rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated". Mis-reported is the best answer I can think of. "Take it with a grain of salt" also comes to mind. I'll ask my wife tonight; she grew up in communist Russia, so she's very familiar with intentional misinformation.
    – IchabodE
    Dec 2, 2014 at 0:46
  • It reminds "availability heuristic" also.
    – ermanen
    Dec 2, 2014 at 1:43

2 Answers 2


Yellow Journalism is the practice of eschewing traditional fact-gathering for eye-catching/sensational headlines. Because of the aggressive tone behind the word 'yellow', it doesn't really describe the situation objectively.

Media bias as a general term can cover quite a bit of ground when the facts are not necessarily wrong, just the gist, slant, or take on the story differs from the viewer's perspective. You have quite a few options depending on your particular beef with the journalist ranging from Sensationalism (the practice of reporting on sensitive or emotional topics to increase readership/viewership) to Journalistic Objectivity (especially regarding coverage of liberal/conservative politics in the United States) to state-sponsored censorship like that in North Korea.

Corrections and clarifications refer to the factual errors or mistakes of phrasing that I imagine you are not asking about.

Finally, as was noted in the comments, the Hostile media effect is relevant to this issue, but is invisible to its beholders because they see bias where there isn't necessarily any.

  • Thanks for the reply. I think my question was a bit vague, so I added an example. This is more about factual errors and journalist ignorance concerning details about some topics. Hostile media effect may play some part though ("dumb journalists don't know anything about X") Sep 10, 2014 at 1:32

Almost a year later, I found my answer. It is the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, coined by Michael Crichton.

From https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/65213-briefly-stated-the-gell-mann-amnesia-effect-is-as-follows-you :

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

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