The Sorry State of (Science) Reporting

My trust in the media took a big dive when I saw how they covered the emergence of the Internet over a decade ago. I thought I was skeptical before, but after I saw “them” cover something I knew a few things about, I was disgusted.

I’m particularly disgusted with their science reporting. This article in the guardian hits on a couple of the major problems.

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Don’t dumb me down

bq. It is my hypothesis that in their choice of stories, and the way they cover them, the media create a parody of science, for their own means. They then attack this parody as if they were critiquing science.

One big issue, the way they dumb down their stories to the point that they carry no real information:

bq. What’s wrong with the coverage itself? The problems here all stem from one central theme: there is no useful information in most science stories. A piece in the Independent on Sunday from January 11 2004 suggested that mail-order Viagra is a rip-off because it does not contain the “correct form” of the drug. I don’t use the stuff, but there were 1,147 words in that piece. Just tell me: was it a different salt, a different preparation, a different isomer, a related molecule, a completely different drug? No idea. No room for that one bit of information.

It’s not just science stories either. In the past few days I listened to two longish local stories on the TV news that were so general as to communicate absolutely no information of any relevance, and last night I read an AP wire story on Yahoo that was similarly content free.

Even if the point of the news media is to deliver readers to advertisers, it seems dead wrong to me to dumb down stories so much that there isn’t a single sentence that might challenge even the stupidest most ignorant readers brain. Such readers might be easily swayed by advertising, but how much money can they possibly have to spend?

One thought on “The Sorry State of (Science) Reporting

  1. Dutchman

    The main reason for the “no true content” rule is that they are trying not to have any lawsuits come against them or the news media outlet the work for if the story happens to contain or turn out to be false. Having worked in the print media for a couple of years, this was a well known fact around the office. Put enough information to get people speculating down the “correct” path of thought, but dont say anything specific that could be used in court.

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