Monday, September 14, 2009

Science literacy in the media

The Guardian, the paper of the British undergraduate (and me when I lived there), likes consider itself somewhat a cut above other newspapers. It provides a platform to the excellent Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre (although his recent article on drug patents left a bit to be desired) which is to be applauded.

However, despite all this it still seems to favour the art graduate stepping sideways school of training health correspondents and because of this makes regular, irritating (to me) mistakes in the most basic facts of science stories. There was an article which conflated influence vaccines with therapeutics quite recently etc etc.

Here's a classic. As I clicked on the link, I knew what I would find:

- Story about an E. coli outbreak.
- Covered by David Batty, "Health Correspondent"
- He thinks it's a virus. He's clearly not sure, so starts off with the classic "bug" gambit at the start of the article to avoid committing.
- He even quotes a bacteriologist.

How long does it take to search Wikipedia? I suppose if you don't know what you don't know, you don't know you need to search.

Maybe I could be the Guardian's Australian chess correspondent. After all, I know shag all about that.

1 comment:

  1. I have friends who are microbiologists who rail about this constantly. Some gems are: the flu bacteria, the Candida virus, the dreaded MRSA virus (which would explain why the antibiotics don't work). Mind you, I read in some overseas newspapers about swine flu treatment, with health depts in certain countries doling out amoxy as part of the routine protocol.