Film and media scholars might be equally irritated by mainstream writing about their field, and on similar grounds. Popular prose about media is often full of clichés and some of these clichés are based on misconceptions about film and media history. The passage that caught my eye most recently was in an article in the Washington Post by its film critic Ann Hornaday about YouTube:
One hundred years ago, the first moviegoers ran screaming from a French theater while watching a train pull into a station; they were transfixed by quotidian scenes of a baby eating lunch, a man being sprayed by a sprinkler and workers leaving a factory. Today we have a baby passing gas in a crib, and teenagers mixing Diet Coke and Mentos and cats, cats, cats.Here are two claims about early cinema, the former far more common than the latter, both based on no credible evidence that I have seen. It is convenient for Hornaday's point to recycle these myths about the introduction of cinema. It helps make her discussion of web video appear to be grounded in an historical context for understanding the emergence of new media. But it doesn't excuse her offering bogus facts that we are expected to accept as though they are just part of common knowledge. (Aside from this passage and some other regrettably glib phrases--she calls the audience for YouTube "an eagerly narcotized booboisie"--the article is full of useful insights into the web video phenomenon and I recommend it.)
Conditioned by "magic lantern" slide shows and serial comics of the 19th century, the earliest filmgoers at first didn't see film as more than just a series of still images. But then -- and fairly quickly -- out of the random, the daily, the incidental, a cohesive aesthetic emerged, born of film's distinct visual grammar and narrative power.
Popular writing that makes references to the history of film often relies on such an unofficial body of common knowledge about the topic, and much of it is at best partly true. You might have your own roster of favorite dubious notions about film history; these are some of mine.
-Moviegoers in the 1890s were panicked by the train's approach in the Lumière film L'Arrivé d'un Train.
-The Great Train Robbery was the first film to tell a story.
-D.W. Griffith invented or discovered "film language."
-The Jazz Singer was the first sound film.
-Citizen Kane is the undisputed heavyweight champion of cinematic masterpieces. This one generated its own saying: "X makes Y look like Citizen Kane."
-John Cassavetes (or Sam Fuller, or Andy Warhol...) is the "father of independent cinema."
-Jaws was the first summer blockbuster and its success killed the more authentic auteur cinema of everyone's beloved early 1970s.
There are at least three problems with these assertions as they are typically made. First, they are historically inaccurate, are based on too little evidence, or simplify something rather more complicated. The Jazz Singer, for example, was not the first film with sync sound or the first feature film with a soundtrack. It was a hit feature film made with some synchronized dialog and singing and it had some role in influencing the creation of more sync sound features--a role abetted by promotional puffery from the film's own producers. It marks one significant event among many in cinema's transition to sound. Putting it that way makes it more difficult to slip in as a factoid along the way to making some other point. It is rhetorically more effective to treat film history as a before and and an after, with The Jazz Singer marking the passage.
Second, these formulations are based on fallacies of historical reasoning. Popular discussions of history often fall back on certain habits of thought that professional historians consider highly problematic. In film history as in history generally, these include the "great man" theory that gives more credit to individuals than to other causes (structural ones, for example, such as economics, technology, and society). It makes a more compelling story if you put a great man like Edison or Griffith or Cassavetes at the center of it. But "great man" history often slights many important issues. Griffith's contribution to the development of cinema into a narrative art, which he himself advertised in the early 1910s, has too often been grossly overstated. Great man history makes the error of assuming that events may have a single cause.
Another historical fallacy we often find in journalistic film writing is the emphasis on firsts. It seems to make some kind of intuitive sense to try to identify the first instances of important things, but ultimately it is of limited value to the historian because firstness is not an explanatory notion. It doesn't often tell you anything about a category to know which instance of it came first. If Jaws was seen as innovative in various ways (e.g., in the way it was advertised and promoted), that is a significant fact. But naming it "the first summer blockbuster" is like pinning a ribbon on the movie. What does that gain us?
Finally, like the clichés about Eskimo words for snow, these bits of fakelore are evidence of bad writing. Good writing avoids facile analogies and conventional wisdom. Good writing is built on good ideas and respects the complexity of complex things.
As for the notion that early cinema spectators saw "a series of still images": does this not contradict the notion that early cinema spectators were afraid of an onrushing train? Who would be panicked by a series of still images of a train?
 Martin Loiperdinger, "Lumière's Arrival of the Train: Cinema's Founding Myth" The Moving Image 4/1 (Spring 2004), 89-118, discusses the centrality of this story to film history. Loiperdinger writes on page 94, "Are there credible reports from eyewitnesses that document the panicked behavior of the spectators? Apparently nothing of the sort exists." The article goes on to describe the film and its reception in terms not of confusing image and reality, as the myth suggests, but of offering the thrill of a "fantastic image of familiar reality."
Recent film history surveys either ignore the story of spectators frightened by the onrushing Lumière train (Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, Film History: An Introduction; Douglas Gomery, The Movies: A Short History), or make clear that its veracity is questionable:
-"Apocryphal tales persist that the onrushing cinematic train so terrified audience members that they ducked under their seats for protection." Roberta Pearson, "Early Cinema" in Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Ed., The Oxford History of World Cinema (Oxford UP, 1996), 17.
-"From the platform, the camera observes the train in the distance approaching the station (legend has it that some spectators panicked as the engine appeared to come closer)." Robert Sklar, Film: An International History of the Medium (Prentice Hall, 1993), 30.
An earlier generation of film historians was less careful in evaluating claims of this sort and are among those responsible for spreading this story, as Loiperdinger discusses. "[T]he audience shrieked and ducked when it saw the train hurtling toward them," writes Gerald Mast, A Short History of the Movies (Pegasus, 1971), 33. Now even Wikipedia says that the story of the panicked spectators is bunk.
 These were on the first page of hits when I searched Google for "look like citizen kane":
-"[Kumbha Mela] makes Zabriskie Point look like Citizen Kane."
-"This cinematic Chernobyl [Millenium] made Gigli look like Citizen Kane."
-"[Dead Poets Society] was bad, but The Emperor's Club made it look like Citizen Kane"
-"[Blow Out] makes the San Pedro Beach Bums and Pensacola NAS look like Citizen Kane and Forrest Gump."
-"[The author's video of himself during Trial Skills Weekend] makes my commercial for the Awesome B and C Alarm Clock look like Citizen Kane."
-"Armageddon makes Deep Impact look like Citizen Kane."
-"[Britney and Kevin: Chaotic] made Crossroads look like Citizen Kane"
 For more on The Jazz Singer, see Donald Crafton, The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound 1926-1931 (U of California P, 1997), especially 516-531.