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Tesla Wins In Safety & Sales, Yet Headlines Mostly Negative — #Pravduh Report 6

There were “only” 50 negative Tesla headlines last week in the 22 major media outlets we track for our weekly #Pravduh reports. That’s the lowest we’ve seen since we started the project 6 weeks ago. That might seem good on the surface, but it’s irrelevant without context. What happened with regard to Tesla last week?

Editor’s Intro

There were “only” 50 negative Tesla headlines last week in the 22 major media outlets we track for our weekly #Pravduh reports. That’s the lowest we’ve seen since we started the project 6 weeks ago. That might seem good on the surface, but it’s irrelevant without context. What happened with regard to Tesla last week?

Tesla published new referral program prizes, which included a fun option to get a photo sent into space. Tesla also offered free Supercharging for drivers escaping Hurricane Michael. There was some quiet, backroom activity regarding the SEC versus Tesla case, but nothing public or substantial. And after numerous headlines rumoring that a certain board member was likely to become chairman, Elon Musk succinctly indicated they were all bunk.

There were also some tweets about Teslaquila. (We don’t see Teslaquila as a highly significant Tesla story. We figure that it was a neutral story in itself but that it was read differently depending on your stance on Tesla overall. Bears think it’s Elon distracting or going crazy. Bulls think Elon is in a good mood and having fun as a result.)

But much more important than any of that, the week started with Tesla revealing that the Model 3 had been scored the safest car ever tested by the NHTSA, a stunning achievement and no less so because of the gap between it and other cars. Furthermore, if that didn’t grab people’s attention, Tesla pointed out that the top 3 cars with the lowest probability of injury according to NHTSA tests were a Tesla (Model 3), a Tesla (Model S), and a Tesla (Model X). The success, ironically, actually got several negative headlines because the NHTSA didn’t release the figures itself and wasn’t keen on Tesla highlighting the nuanced scores. To be clear, Tesla claims were correct, but the NHTSA doesn’t like to publicly discuss the specific scores behind “5 stars” or such.

How these safety records weren’t covered in a positive manner all across the press is beyond me. It just doesn’t make sense that such a significant, positive story wouldn’t get more press. But that’s the nature of Tesla coverage these days.

Another major story that could have been covered and put Tesla in good light but was basically ignored is that new fuel economy regulations are slamming conventional automakers, because they have not moved fast enough to electrify their fleets. This is a European topic, so we can give other outlets a pass on this one, but the new, stronger regulations combined with automakers moving too slowly means open doors for Tesla to eat up market share in the EU. Crickets.

With more time to digest Tesla’s Q3 sales figures, we figured more outlets would be covering some of the company’s significant sales milestones, like passing up Jaguar and Porsche globally; passing up BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, and every other luxury automaker in the USA; and becoming the 4th best selling car in the USA, the #1 highest grossing car, and the #1 American car. Alas, the moment had passed and there was only a trickle of headlines covering Tesla’s nearly impossible growth.

So, where’d he negative headlines actually come from last week? What the heck happened to warrant 50 negative headlines? Read on.

Also, we wanted to emphasize higher up here that we are sharing the raw data (headlines and scores) every week. You can scan through yourself if you want to double check our findings or just see the headlines. And you can check out our own Tesla stories for more context and comparison.

#Pravduh About #Tesla
Report #6 (October 6–12)


Due to the fact that this week has a lot fewer articles than previous weeks, we thought it would make sense to show the distribution of Positive, Neutral and Negative news in percentages.

This week, for the first time since we started tracking headlines, the number of negative articles is less than the number of neutral articles.

The 5 sites publishing the most about Tesla last week were: Bloomberg, CNBC, Business Insider, Fox News, and The Street.

Aside from the websites featured above, “Other” this month includes: WSJ, Guardian, BGR, Engadget, NYT, Gizmodo, CNN, Wired, BBC, The Verge, MSNBC and Vox.

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 33 who published more than 5 articles about Tesla last week:

It took us a long time, but we believe we now have a good new system for displaying so much data. We now use a new neutrality system that goes from -100% to positive 100%. In this system, 0% is neutral. The number of negative/positive articles and percentages are also still displayed.

The interesting thing about our new system is it provides a good breakdown of how authors are positioned.

Out of 33 authors:

  • 4 of them are within 15% of 0
  • 11 of them are within 25% of 0

Which sounds not bad, right? A third?

But 7 of the 11 noted above are on the negative side.

14 authors are more than 50% negative and only 1 author is more than 50% positive.

This means that 42% of the authors have a greater than -50% neutrality.

Furthermore, as noted in the intro this week and last week, 0% neutrality may not make sense if the actual news about the company is primarily positive. All of these numbers should be taken within context.

To help you visualize what what we just told you, here is a new graph for your consideration:

Please note that there are multiple negative authors who have the same neutrality score and the same total number of articles. Some of the red dots actually represent more than 1 author. We plan to offer a better graph for this next week.

Last week, we pointed out that some authors — like Nathan Bomey (USA Today) and Benjamin Bain (Bloomberg) — haven’t written a single positive article about Tesla in the past 6 weeks. There are even authors like Kevin Curran (The Steet) and Liam Denning (Bloomberg) who have never written anything but negative articles (not even a single neutral one).

On the bright side, there are authors who appear quite neutral. Kirsten Korosec (TechCrunch), Michael Sheets (CNBC), Jon Fingas (Engadget), Matthew Deboard (Business Insider), and Sean O’Kane (The Verge) stayed within the 15% margin of error from absolute neutrality.

(For this entire section, 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.)

Again, here is the data from this past week in case you want to have a closer look at the raw data.

What Changed With Tesla Last Week

Aside from the summary in the intro, here’s a summary of Tesla news and potential news ordered by day.

You can consider for yourself what were objectively the important updates in the “Tesla story” 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 variation in how a headline is rated, we discuss and come to an agreed conclusion.

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 5 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.

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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Written By

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.


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