Sunday, January 9, 2011

This is a blogpost about a news article about a scientific paper

I love dry humor, and this bit is a little old but an excellent read. Martin Robbins, writing for the Guardian in the UK, posted on Sept 27, 2010 an article titled "This is a news website article about a scientific paper". He goes on with the subtitle:
In the standfirst I will make a fairly obvious pun about the subject matter before posing an inane question I have no intention of really answering: is this an important scientific finding?
In a great lampoon of prototypical media failures when it comes to reporting on medical and scientific breakthroughs, including:
  • Scare tactics
  • Failing to link to the paper and not providing enough information to find it on your own
  • Overstating the inadequacy of existing literature
  • Oversimplification of the findings
  • Failing to delve into sources beyond Google and Wikipedia
  • Attaching the science to some minor celebrity's pet cause
  • Meaningless figures and graphics
  • False balance of competing opinions to generate controversy
I have friends in media, some of whom do an excellent job with their reporting, so I do not mean to suggest that all reporters use these tactics when reporting on science. However, the parody would not be funny if it were not (unfortunately) true so often.

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