The $16 muffin: A perfect example of sensationalized reporting

The Justice Department did not, as it was reported, spend $16 per muffin at a recent conference. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

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Having experienced it from the newsroom and as a crisis communicator, the facts often do play second fiddle to the juiciness of a good story and a snappy teaser or headline. The latest example of this is the case of the $16 muffin.

The media descended on the news that the Justice Department spent $16 per muffin during a conference, an example of government waste during a time when everyone is pinching pennies.

It’s a great story that is, however, not supported by the facts. Hilton Worldwide, the host of the convention, repeatedly said the $16 price tag included not only breakfast baked-goods but also fresh fruit, coffee, tea, soft drinks, tax, and tips.

Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein took a bigger picture look at the coverage of the news story and found that the myth of the $16 muffin highlights the media’s rush to sensationalize outrage-inducing stories. He found that of the 223 stories about “muffingate”:

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