Linheraptor vs the international media

I was not too involved in the PR stuff done for Linheraptor, but after previous experiences with the press (and in the light of this recent, and superb, article) I am interested and intrigued as to just how these stories get circulated and written up to appear in the media. As before, there seemed to be several errors that were introduced early on (and it’s really not clear how) by some newsies which were then replicated and / or added to in subsequent generations of stories. Muller’s ratchet seems to apply to science journalism.

For example:

– The main photo of the cast of Linheraptor was said to be the original specimen by just about everyone, even by those who I e-mailed the photo to directly, telling them it was a cast, and not the original.

– Similarly, this photo was credited to the Journal Zootaxa in which the paper appeared and not me who took the image. This is odd, since again, I sent out the image saying I took it, and with a copy of the paper in which said photo obviously does not appear.

– While losing out here, happily I was credited with creating the life reconstruction that Matt van Rooijen did for us despite him having signed it, and his name appearing in all the source information sent out the media.

– The American Jonah Choiniere and British (admittedly via Hong Kong) Mike Pittman were credited as being Chinese students in at least one source too.

– The new taxon was described as being the nearest relative of Velociraptor, despite the fact that this is explicitly not what the paper says and several people even lifted quotes directly from the paper saying this was not the case.

– Finally (of the things I have spotted and am bothering to list here, I can’t help but rather suspect there are a few more out there) apparently we were able to tell this was a new dromaeosaur because of the shape of the raptorial claw which is nonsense.

You do wonder how some of these people continue to keep hold of a job. All they seem to do is recycle each others words incorrectly and somehow make a career of it. Nice work if you can get it, but since no one else seems to realise they are doing it badly, it carries on. Really how hard is it to copy someone’s name from an e-mail into an article, or check all of 2 figures in the paper to see that they are different from the photo in front of you. And when the correct information is available in the paper, in the press release and as an online resource, why are you copying from third and fourth hand sources in the first place? Really, I want to know. How are they doing this? ‘Pushed for time’ doesn’t really cut as an excuse when you are only writing 200 words or are 3 days behind everyone else on the story.

9 Responses to “Linheraptor vs the international media”

  1. 1 Manabu Sakamoto 22/03/2010 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve recently developed a very strong dislike to irresponsible journalism. The Japanese newspapers of the 1920s – 1940s just pretty much gave up on journalism and just reduced itself to a fancy military PR devision. It is said that the military HQ was actually wary of the newspapers contradicting their statements but not only did they not do that, they inflated the military statements and did all the nationalistic flag-waving on the military’s behalf. That was the period in time when journalism died. I hope it will never ever happen again, but seeing all the recent frenzy on the climate-gate media coverage and the irresponsibly media-hyped skepticism to climate research, I fear something similar is happening to journalism…

    • 2 David Hone 22/03/2010 at 5:03 pm

      Well in the UK at least the supposed self regulation of the Press Complaints Commission seems to be frighteningly ineffective and one also sees resistance to self-correction when it comes to science and other stories, not to mention outright fabrication from even some of the theoretically more robust and better papers. They won’t let us tell them when they are wrong and they don’t self regulate.

      It’s hard to see how this can be the best way to generate responsible journalism, especially when they feel under attack from the ‘new media’ of the internet and when scare stories so clearly sell copy.

  2. 3 davidmaas 22/03/2010 at 6:17 pm

    Would you share your press kit?
    I’ve made press kits for films and would be interested to see what the point of departure is for such incorrectness. In film reporting, you can pretty much assume that they’ll just copy/paste the guts, then add some opinion – so validity is somewhat controllable.

    Thanks for that fantastic niemanlab report. Truly scary.

    • 4 David Hone 23/03/2010 at 8:23 am

      Hi David, as i said I didn’t do much on this. Two different institutes both sent out press releases, but as I had a few inside contacts with the BBC and a couple of others, I sent them some details directly knowing it would probably skip the first editorial hurdle as a result.

      As such there’s not much to share this time, and what was distributed should be available on the UCL and GWU websites.

  3. 5 mattvr 22/03/2010 at 6:57 pm

    I was just channeling Dave when I did the painting…. he has many talents.

    I’ve had a little experience with press kits too. You have to allow for very narrow attention spans and provide juicy but accurate summaries for compulsive copy-pasters.

  4. 6 Albertonykus 23/03/2010 at 9:19 am

    Ouch. That’s kind of funny, but at the same time highly worrying.

  5. 7 panchamkauns 14/06/2010 at 11:07 am

    The fact is simply that most people aren’t very good at their jobs. I don’t know if people are brighter in academia, but it seems in most lines of business even very successful companies are full of people who aren’t very good at what they’re doing.

    The observant employee will usually notice this in his or her own workplace and wonder how the hell the company can keep turning a profit. Then they realize it’s the same at their competitors … and in every other company around the world.

  1. 1 To praise, not to bury « Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings Trackback on 03/04/2010 at 9:27 am
  2. 2 More on science reporting « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 06/10/2010 at 8:14 pm
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