Friday, March 03, 2006

The Media? Sensationalistic?

This article appeared on the BBC news site. Finally, a story about the sensationistic coverage of scientific findings in the popular press.

Media 'sensationalising science'

A report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), an independent research group, has accused the UK media of sensationalising science.

It says irresponsible reporting can undermine public confidence in science and government, and on issues like vaccination may even cost lives.

Here's my favorite part of the article:

Claudia Wood of the SMF said journalists tend to seek black and white stories and look for certainties which cannot be provided by science.

"The media has to be very aware that what it says can have huge impacts on the public's behaviour," she told the BBC.

"I think the media has to be very cautious in how it gives over scientific evidence, and has to make sure that people understand that there are certain risks to some things but a lot of the time evidence isn't conclusive."

The Neurocritic is of the opinion that the desire to get one's research published in high-profile journals and the popular press can drive many (formerly open-minded) scientists to write pathetically simplistic papers that completely ignore any findings in the literature that may disagree with their own results. Competition between editors at the various high-profile journals only feeds this compulsion for the black & white result that'll look good in the NY Times, when the reality is a shade of gray. Gray doesn't sell, however.

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