I vividly remember reading a Wikipedia article about a named law (e.g. "Betteridge's law of headlines"). It goes something like this: "You read an article about a topic you're very familiar with, and find that the author knows nothing and his article is extremely misinformed. You then flip the newspaper page, forgetting the low content quality you've just read, and continue reading as if the rest of the information in newspaper (about topics you're not familiar with) can be trusted normally."

I am asking for the name of the law. I'm fairly certain it is eponymous, but couldn't find it in Wikipedia's list of eponymous laws.

(Related question that does not contain the answer I'm looking for: What's the word for spotting flaws in news articles you are expert in, but happily accepting reports in other fields? – The other question is asking about general phrases; I vividly remember it is a named rule, and am asking for the name.)

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    Only one I can think of is Mencken's Law: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Mar 4, 2015 at 21:01

2 Answers 2


Michael Crichton, in "Why Speculate?"—a speech he gave at the International Leadership Forum in La Jolla, California, on April 26, 2002—calls this phenomenon the "Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect":

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works 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 with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

The Internet being what it is—namely, devoid of the concept of irony—a number of sites have picked up on Crichton's "effect" and (I daresay) treated it with the profound respect that a carefully researched and peer-evaluated scientific theory deserves.


This could be a manifestation of the Semmelweis reflex. As described by Wikipedia:

The Semmelweis reflex or "Semmelweis effect" is a metaphor for the reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs or paradigms.

The presupposition in your example is that newspapers do not contain incorrect information. Errors found in an article are dismissed in favour of this belief.

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