Fabrication and erroneous information

Exploring two types of news media scandals as critical incidents in journalism


  • Mark Blach-Ørsten Roskilde University
  • Jannie Møller Hartley Roskilde University
  • Maria Bendix Wittchen Roskilde University




scandals, power, critical incidents


This article analyzes news media scandals as critical incidents in journalism. A critical incident can be broadly understood as an event or development that reflects 'the hows and whys' of journalism. A part of the research into critical incidents studies these as occurrences that are made scandalous by journalistic misdeeds or ethical lapses. The purpose of this article is twofold: first, theoretically, to link this understanding of critical incidents to the study and theory of the scandal. Second, empirically, to analyze how different types of news media scandals lead to reflection and debate about journalism. To achieve this purpose, the article focuses on two specific types of news media scandals: the fabrication scandal and the erroneous information scandal. The two types of scandals bring into question fundamental standards and practices of journalism, such as 'telling the truth' and basing stories on 'facts.' They also lead to reflections on 1) increased competition between news media, 2) the pressure to produce more stories inside the individual newsroom, 3) the drive to get a 'scoop,' 4) journalism's relationship to powerful and/or anonymous sources, and 5) the problems of a 'trust, not supervise' culture in the newsroom.


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How to Cite

Blach-Ørsten, M., Hartley, J. M., & Wittchen, M. B. (2021). Fabrication and erroneous information: Exploring two types of news media scandals as critical incidents in journalism. Journalistica, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.7146/journalistica.v15i1.125395



Special Issue: Journalism on the edge