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Published on October 8th, 2018 | by Chanan Bos

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276 Tesla Headlines: 116 Negative & 80 Positive — #Pravduh About #Tesla, October Week 1

October 8th, 2018 by  


Editor’s Intro

Last week included record-shattering production and delivery numbers from Tesla and thus a dramatic shift in the US automotive market. The American-made Model 3 became the 4th highest selling car in the United States and was for the second month in a row the highest grossing car in the United States. It was the only car in the top 7 produced by an American car company. Furthermore, the Model 3 totally demolished the competition in the luxury car market and Tesla as a whole was the top selling luxury vehicle brand in the country. The week also included an SEC lawsuit regarding some of Elon’s tweets and a settlement regarding that lawsuit. How did the headlines match up with that news and more? Read on to find out.

In this project, we track Tesla headlines and rate them based on their implications for Tesla. Our report covers 22 major media sites. We rate the Tesla (including Elon Musk) headlines from all of those outlets as either positive, negative, or neutral.

If a headline is factual but implies something negative, it is labeled as negative. The purpose of this project is not to systematically judge whether individual headlines are misleading. We deal with some articles separately if the headline and article are out-of-this-world crazy. (No offense to Mars or other planets, by the way.) However, we think it communicates something important if there are 30 headlines about one negative story and only 2 headlines about a strongly positive story. That is more or less what we’re trying to evaluate and understand here — do the connotations of the various headlines together match up well with the most important news and developments of Tesla?

In fact, the quantity and message of certain types of headlines communicates a lot. The media picks and chooses what’s important — what’s useful to know and how much weight that topic should be given. If it has 30 headlines telling you that the company making the new strawberry ice cream isn’t yet making a profit (ignoring that it can do so once a certain amount of ice cream is sold in coming months), 2 headlines telling you the new strawberry ice cream can prevent cancer, 3 headlines telling you people love this new strawberry ice cream, and then another 20 headlines predicting that this strawberry ice cream costs more to make than normal strawberry ice cream (that doesn’t prevent cancer, something not mentioned in those articles), chances are high you’re not going to think very highly of this new strawberry ice cream. Did the media tell the story well, or did it create a massively warped — misleading — narrative of this new ice cream and what’s important to know about it?

One well known issue with the media, in general, is that it focuses on negative topics more than positive ones, which leads to the public having a more negative view of the world. The media often examines problems — or potential problems — rather than highlighting positive news. Does the media have to be like that? No, and that’s actually one reason why many “new media” websites have become so popular — because they focus on what excites and interests people more than the “old media” tends to do so.

It is important to keep that context in mind when reading these reports — the media is predominantly negative about Tesla, but that’s part of its tendency to be predominantly negative about the world, about life. However, does the negativity go even much further with Tesla? And why does the media find it so hard to tell an unprecedented American success story in terms of jobs, innovation, manufacturing, public health, and climate action?

Overall, it does seem like more in the media should have learned by now that people like reading about cool solutions and learning about the positive innovations of leading movers and shakers. If these outlets feel like they need to cover Tesla because it’s hot, instead of writing 50 articles about the same story without any genuinely relevant new information in 49 of them, they could try to fill gaps in people’s actual understanding of Tesla itself, including its history. After all, many people have learned about Tesla in just the last few years. In that regard, one headline we spotted this week on The Street was “Tesla: 15 Years of Automotive History.” We ranked the headline as “neutral,” but what’s important is that it seemed like an interesting, useful way to contribute to the topic rather than just writing about the same non-story for the 15th time. (That said, we didn’t read the article to see if it was indeed useful or just a fluff piece. Let’s hope it was the former.)

One more special note for this week: We struggled with the scoring this week for a few different topics. It was a strange week.

For example, there were many headlines very similar to this one: “Elon Musk forced to step down as chairman of Tesla, remains CEO.” Part of that headline implies something negative and part implies something positive. Here’s another example: “Elon Musk to Step Down as Tesla Chairman, Remain CEO.” Since these are split stories, we conservatively scored such headlines as neutral. In actuality, leading with the bad news makes them significantly more negative in the reader’s mind. (That’s how brains work.) Frankly, we probably should have graded such headlines as negative, but we decided to cautiously consider the split news a wash. As it turns out, the news — even though it is negative in a vacuum — led to a spike in the company’s stock price, because the market was apparently worried about something worse — like Elon being forced to step down from the CEO role.

There were also a fair number of headlines along these lines: “Elon Musk Calls S.E.C. ‘the Shortseller Enrichment Commission’ on Twitter.” That kind of headline — nearly every headline on that topic — could be read as positive or negative depending on your perspective on Elon Musk making fun of the SEC. As such, we scored such headlines as neutral. There were some cases where the headline went beyond the story in order to imply something clearly negative about Tesla or Musk, so those headlines were graded as negative, but the others as neutral.

To repeat the first paragraph above, last week included record-shattering production and delivery numbers from Tesla and thus a dramatic shift in the US automotive market. The American-made Model 3 became the 4th highest selling car in the United States and was for the second month in a row the highest grossing car in the United States. It was the only car in the top 7 produced by an American car company. Furthermore, the Model 3 totally demolished the competition in the luxury car market and Tesla as a whole was the top selling luxury vehicle brand in the country. The week also included an SEC lawsuit regarding some of Elon’s tweets and a settlement regarding that lawsuit. How did the headlines match up with that news and more? Read on to find out.


#Pravduh About #Tesla
Report #5 (September 29 — October 5)

This week, the ratio of negative to positive articles was almost 3 to 2. There were 45% more negative headlines than positive headlines. There were also 45% more negative headlines as neutral headlines.

The sites publishing the most about Tesla last week were: CNBC, Fox News, and The Street. CNBC published twice as many Tesla-related stories as Bloomberg and Forbes, tied for #4. Aside from the websites featured above, “Other” this month includes: Yahoo, Wires, USA Today, BBC, The Guardian, BGR, MSNBC, and Gizmodo.

Because we also cover a lot of news publishers with notably fewer articles than the ones in the chart above but still enough to examine more closely, here is a second chart comparing the news publishers that fell under “Other” in the chart above:

The next matter on our itinerary is tracking the authors who published this news. While the whole list is too long to put here since there are many authors who have written just one piece about Tesla, here are the 19 who published more than 6 articles about Tesla last week:

As you can see, while some authors — like Nathan Bomey (USA Today) and Benjamin Bain (Bloomberg) — haven’t written a single positive article about Tesla all week, there are also authors who appear quite neutral — like Kirsten Korosec (TechCrunch), Sean O’Kane (The Verge), and Bret Kenwell (The Street) — with either half positive and half negative headlines, or with predominantly neutral headlines. (Note: At major media outlets, there are often headline writers who control this part of articles, but we find tracking the authors is also interesting and potentially useful for considering what kind of stories the authors tend to write.)

Whether a 50% negativity index is appropriate, as a reminder, depends on whether the overall Tesla company story really had a 50% negative week. All of the above is only useful when compared to how Tesla objectively evolved or devolved.

You can consider for yourself what were objectively the important updates in the “Tesla story” last week. Were they primarily negative as these media outlets imply, or were they primarily positive due to Tesla’s production ramp, delivery outpouring, luxury vehicle dominance, and unmatched ranking at the top of the US sales charts?

Here is the data from this week if you want to have a closer look at the raw data.

What Changed With Tesla Last Week


Our Methodology

As you have seen, we track Tesla headlines and rate them based on their implications for Tesla. We cover 22 major media sites. We rate all of their Tesla headlines as either positive, negative, or neutral. Unlike a more nuanced scale, this system is based on solidly objective evaluation and contains minimal bias. A handful of us have been checking the headlines and we do not find much variation in how a headline is rated, because it is a straightforward and clear system. If there is a question on rating a specific headline or topic, we discuss, but have not run into any controversies or real debates about scoring.

We define journalism as: the pursuit of facts and reporting on them. When you systematically report with a slant that doesn’t line up with reality, or omit facts that are inconvenient to your point of view, that distorts the general truth. In order to be as transparent as possible, all the data our analysis is based on are published at the end of each report. We report the facts and let you draw your own conclusions about the story behind these stories.

We encourage you to check our data and have fun experimenting in the evaluator role — that is can be even more illuminating than simply looking at the results. We also encourage you to let us know if you notice something that was rated incorrectly or have suggestions on how to further improve our system.


#Pravduh History & Extra Context

The CleanTechnica team started creating weekly and monthly #Pravduh About #Tesla reports in September 2018 after getting really tired of oddly negative Tesla coverage in mainstream media outlets, and after a little stimulation from some trolling by Elon Musk.

For those who somehow missed it, about 4 months ago, Elon Musk got fed up with so much of the media publishing FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) articles about Tesla, and in some cases outright misinformation, that he presented an idea.

Most people who follow Tesla closely agree that it has been the target of far too much misleading, unfair, negative media coverage. We here at CleanTechnica define journalism as: the pursuit of facts and reporting on them in a useful, proper context. When you systematically report with a slant that doesn’t line up with reality, or omit facts that are inconvenient to your point of view, that distorts the general truth of the story.

We at CleanTechnica felt something did need to be done. As the stories — whether in the New York Times, New York Post, Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, or Bloomberg — got worse, we were finally pushed to more systematic, regular action. Writers on our site had long been informing readers about Tesla FUD and misinformation, and readers had been informing writers. We wrote articles digging into the facts and the finances. But sporadic, one-off attempts at correcting the record didn’t seem to be enough. Putting our own playful spin on the “Pravda” name Elon mentioned on Twitter, we decided to create #Pravduh About #Tesla.

Of all the parts of a story, the headlines have the biggest influence — by far — so we decided to focus our efforts on headline analysis. We have found the results to be very interesting so far, and we’re super curious to see how they evolve over time. Apparently, Elon is interested in this as well.

We would also like to thank Maye Musk for her support of this project and for using the data to try to improve Tesla coverage.

She also retweeted these, stories almost 100% ignored by the 22 major media outlets we track:

The more these #Pravda About #Tesla reports get shared online through social media, the more people will take notice. If there is an ongoing heavily negative slant about Tesla in certain outlets — even as Tesla has so much positive news to share — people should be aware of this and approach each new story with that in mind.


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About the Author

Chanan grew up in a multicultural, multi-lingual environment that often gives him a unique perspective on a variety of topics. He is always in thought about big picture topics like AI, quantum physics, philosophy, Universal Basic Income, climate change, sci-fi concepts like the singularity, misinformation, and the list goes on. Currently, he is studying creative media & technology but already has diplomas in environmental sciences as well as business & management. His goal is to discourage linear thinking, bias, and confirmation bias whilst encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and helping people understand exponential progress. Chanan is very worried about his future and the future of humanity. That is why he has a tremendous admiration for Elon Musk and his companies, foremost because of their missions, philosophy, and intent to help humanity and its future. He sees Tesla as one of the few companies that can help us save ourselves from climate change.



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