Yet more on the media and the reporting of science

I have in the past strongly recommended the superb book ‘Bad Science’ by Dr Ben Goldacre, and if you are not already a regular, you really should read his website too. As a practicing scientist involved in the media, he, above almost anyone else I can think of, is in a place to observe exactly what is going on on both sides and how both sides try to use the other. This mini-interview is a superb encapsulation of the major issues at play as seen by someone who is effectively an ‘insider’ for both sides – the fact that he is so dismissive and critical of the media rather suggests where he thinks the faults lie, not to mention revealing a few dirty little secrets about how articles are created and quotes are complied.

You should also check out this long, but very detailed post on science reporting by a researcher on her dealings with the media and their inability to listen to what was said. Here she went to the trouble of telling them not to republish the article they wanted to use, which they then published anyway and managed to misquote her over why they published it. Good work boys.

3 Responses to “Yet more on the media and the reporting of science”


  1. 1 Mike Taylor 11/03/2009 at 11:45 pm

    Well, OK. But for the record I want to say that my experience with the media when Xenoposeidon was announced was the exact opposite of this: Darren and I took a lot of time, with UoP publicity people, to polish our press release and the accompanying web-page full of images, so that by the time the paper was released, all the ducks were in a row, and everything the newspapers, radio and TV stations needed to know was easily available to them in a form they could readily understand. The result is that there were essentially NO mistakes in any of the fifteen or so newspaper reports I saw or in the half-dozen TV spots (which you can check for yourself on YouTube). All this has left me wondering how much of the “problems” scientists have with the media comes from their not taking the trouble to lay everything out for the people they’re dealing with. At any rate, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I read and saw about Xeno.

  2. 2 David Hone 12/03/2009 at 6:59 am

    Of course it DOES happen Mike (as indeed it should), but my personal experience and that of a great many colleagues is that this is the exception not the rule. I have had great experiences with some, and terrible ones with others, and of course my general whinging goes beyond misreporting the words of researchers and on into very basic errors, and the whole Bad Science litany of active distortion etc.
    It is good to know that things do go well (and I am aware of just how good the Pompey press office is) and this is good. Of course I go for criticism becuase it tends to be obvious what is wrong, and I can’t praise what I don’t know is right. Overall, I honestly think things are getting better (slowly) but it might take a while to get to something I would probably consider on avergae to be ‘good’.


  1. 1 The media vs science, yes, *again* - sigh. « Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings Trackback on 27/03/2009 at 4:11 pm
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