My apologies for the recent lack of in depth posts, I do have some coming but for right now work has to (shock, horror) take priority and I just don’t have the time free that I usually do to write ‘proper’ posts. Anyway, I can vaguely compensate for that by linking to a nice long article for you to read on that subject that vexes me the most, the media distortion of science. If you have any interest in this and science communication as a whole, then you really should read this piece in the New Scientist. In this case the primary movers seem to be the editors rather than the journalists themselves (at least initially), but that hardly excuses the responsibilty of the organisation as a whole, or the journalists for not demanding accurate coverage of their own story. After all, what is the point of them getting it right if it then appears under a banner headline that says the opposite? Especially as then inevitably other papers picked up on the wrong message and rebroadcast it.
One thing that certainly makes it different is the fact that the primary target of the article is the British newspaper The Guardian. What is interesting is that The Guardian is the host of the superb Bad Science which I mentioned several times before and goes out of its way to trash just such reporting. I can hardly complain that they are good enough to actually host Bad Science and as such promote good science and accurate and responsible science reporting (this is more than any other paper in the Uk that I know of), but when they then splash nonsense on the front page no less (and apparently follow it up with more inside), it does *rather* diminish the effect and appear to be crass hypocricy and double standards.
The Guardian is, in my opinion, one of the best papers that I know of for science reporting, and of course not only do they have Ben Goldacre on their staff but freely let him criticise everything, including the paper he is writing for, on a regular basis (I actually picked up on this article from his feed). It therefore, I think, empahsises the point of just how bad these things can be in terms of distortion, manipulation and general stomping over reality in order to make a ‘good’ story. Researchers can always do a better job of communicating their research, but those who criticise the researchers for these mistakes in their dealings with the media really need to look at the huge plethora of these stories that just keep on coming and see just how extreme these things can become depite the best efforts of scientists and even the journalists themselves.