Readers of the Mk. 1 blog will know I run an ongoing battle with the media over their portrayal of science and scientists and this recent article allows me to do two things. First of all its a nice bit of self aggrandising because I get mentioned alongside Xu Xing and Peter Dodson (while, errr, talking about the Chinese space program), but secondly it allows me to illustrate a point about how some articles are put together.
Obviously I met the guy who wrote the article and he was genuinely interested in Xu and his work and tried to get to how he became a palaeontologist and what it meant to him. While I appreciate that to a degree you have to have an angle to see a story to the public as a journalist, it is also true that writing the story you want to, and the one your editor wants are not necessarily the same thing. Note how these two lines appear in the bulk of the text “(Roy Chapman) Andrews is often compared to Indiana Jones” and “Xu plays down any comparison of himself to Andrews”.
OK, fair enough, but why then does the opening paragraph call Xu Xing “China’s real-life Indiana Jones”? Hmmm, is it becuase a new film is out and it makes the story sound really exciting? Even though the fieldwork barely gets a mention and the story is about his academic history? Could be….