Sci Station Canada

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Scientific Reporting in Journalism

I commented in a recent post to SFI-Canada that a report on Global Warming in Canada should be perhaps be taken with a grain of salt because it was journalism.

Research from the University of Alberta would seem to suggest otherwise. They found that only 11 per cent of newspaper articles based on studies in top-flight scientific journals contained "moderate to highly exaggerated claims." Another 26 per cent contained "slightly exaggerated" claims. And, even when those excesses occurred, the researchers found, journalists were not necessarily the source of the problem. Rather, scientists and the scientific journals that published research routinely hype their findings, and reporters make the mistake of parroting them..

The difference between popular journalism and scientific reporting is that it is one of the tenets of science in print - "Thou shalt always document thy sources!" The power of the news media to shape public opinion is self-evident and they should be accountable for their content. I always look for the tell-tale signs - has the author added his byline? Has he given his sources?


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