A few weeks ago in this space, we wrote about the bias toward sensationalist science reporting: lazy journalists report the press release and present the results in traditional scientist-as-hero mode, while the more thoughtful members of the press see through the hype and want no part of it. The result is that readers are exposed only to the puffery but only rarely to the skepticism.
Here’s an example. Recently, one of us received the following email from a reporter for the news section of the journal Nature:
“The paper is about paedophiles being more likely to have minor facial abnormalities, suggesting that paedophilia is a neurodevelopment disorder that starts in the womb. We’re a bit concerned that the stats look weak though—small sample size, no comparison to healthy controls, large SD, etc.
“If you have time, could you take a quick look and let me know if the statistics seem to be strong enough to back up their conclusions? Thepaper is here:”
We spent a few minutes looking at the article in question and replied: “Yes, I agree, I don’t find this convincing, also it’s hard to know what to do with this. It doesn’t seem newsworthy to me. That said, I’m not an expert on this topic.” And the reporter followed our advice and did not cover the article.
So, good news, but you can see the bias. The study was covered in various high-profile news outlets including the London Times and Daily Telegraph, with the latter report being entirely uncritical (for example, using the words “researchers discovered” and “found,” rather than “claim”).
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Don’t mistake genetic for fate