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Bad Science in the Press

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the who-needs-perspective dept.

Science 647

An anonymous reader writes " An editorial in The Guardian presents a good run down of what is wrong with science reporting today and tries to point out why this is. From the article: 'Why is science in the media so often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong? Like a proper little Darwin, I've been collecting specimens, making careful observations, and now I'm ready to present my theory.'"

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yah uhm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535195)

remember when slashdot used to report on alternate consciousness and shit like that?


Science is complex. (5, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13535201)

Science is complex. More often than not very well-trained and experienced scientists get it completely wrong. That said, somebody with a minimal scientific background (ie. a Journalism major) will very often screw up more complicated scientific articles. But likewise, many scientists dislike writing such articles. So we end up with a situation where those in the know would rather not write, and those not in the know are the ones who do write. And the result is lousy scientific articles.

Re:Science is complex. (5, Funny)

dtdns (559328) | about 9 years ago | (#13535208)

BEDEVERE: And that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.

ARTHUR: This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheeps' bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

Re:Science is complex. (1, Funny)

PakProtector (115173) | about 9 years ago | (#13535419)

BEDEVERE: Tell me, when you are walking through the castle, what do you always slip on?
ARTHUR-KING: Sheep's Piss.
BEDEVERE: And where does that piss come from?
BEDEVERE: And earthquakes are caused by?
ARTHUR-KING: Friction!
BEDEVERE: Exactly. So...
ARTHUR-KING: If we put the bladders... in the faults... They'll reduce friction...
BEDEVERE: And therefore, logically...
ARTHUR: No earthquakes!

Re:Science is complex. (1, Informative)

fireboy1919 (257783) | about 9 years ago | (#13535482)

You got that here [] , right?

Re:Science is complex. (5, Interesting)

rimu guy (665008) | about 9 years ago | (#13535218)

Buy and read the New Scientist [] magazine. They cover complex scientific topics. And they convey them in clear (even readable) language. You will soon find that good science and good writing are not mutually exclusive.

VPS Hosting Anyone? []

Re:Science is complex. (2, Informative)

orac2 (88688) | about 9 years ago | (#13535405)

As a science journalist working for Another Science/Tech Publication, I can second that -- New Scientist is worth reading.

Re:Science is complex. (4, Informative)

Stridar (325860) | about 9 years ago | (#13535456)

I would add that The Economist is also usually a very good source for science news, even though it doesn't come with the frequency or pagecount to warrent calling The Economist a scientific publication.

Re:Science is complex. (2, Insightful)

uncoveror (570620) | about 9 years ago | (#13535227)

Even if they didn't major in journalism, reporters usually avoided math and science, and understand nothing about either. Even sports writers make screw ups like referring to a .395 batting average as a "percentage".

Re:Science is complex. (5, Insightful)

kassemi (872456) | about 9 years ago | (#13535314)

In high school I did some work with the Air Force Research Labs (they had some sort of student research program, which gave me access to loads of equipment and funding I would have gotten in no other way. We were working with aberration correction on optical equipment with holograms. A newspaper in the area sent a reporter to gather some information and write an article about what we were doing. We sat down with prepared diagrams, interesting samples and simple explainations as we gave notes to what seemed like a very intelligent reporter. The next week we read the article, and the reporter had missed everything entirely. They made it seem as if we had been doing research into a brand new field which we had invented. It gave us a warm feeling inside, but was obviously wrong. Mainstream news today isn't concerned with giving us accuracy, but rather about stirring the public, and keeping them asking questions that only their sources can answer. The only way to get accurate news in the science field we need to review the scientist's own, peer-reviewed papers. And even then, we need to be very skeptical until we see the research become popularly accurate.

Theory of the Professions (1)

Media Withdrawal (704165) | about 9 years ago | (#13535467)

People seem to be drawn to fields that challenge them, so a surprising number of professionals end up with blind spots. For example, neurotic psychologists, cosmetologists with bad hair, astrophysicists who don't know the constellations, economists who never balance their checkbooks, and (from TFA) journalists who prefer to shoehorn press releases into a familiar story format rather than call the primary sources.

Re:Science is complex. (2, Insightful)

John Biggabooty (591838) | about 9 years ago | (#13535268)

Nearly every media outlet in the US has an astrology column. That alone should reveal that even trying to write about science is a wasted effort. No one would understand or believe it anyway. Americans believe in so much nonsense that a new dark age can't be far off.

Re:Science is complex. (-1, Flamebait)

kayen_telva (676872) | about 9 years ago | (#13535347)

more holier than thou, doom and gloom, america bashing bullshit

Re:Science is complex. (0, Troll)

H0p313ss (811249) | about 9 years ago | (#13535395)

more holier than thou, doom and gloom, america bashing bullshit

- holier than thou - yes
- doom and gloom - probably
- america bashing - quite definately
- bullshit... ????

No... I'm afraid he holds the Tao and you're grasping at straws. Look at the bible thumper you elected to lead you.

Re:Science is complex. (3, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | about 9 years ago | (#13535348)

" That alone should reveal that even trying to write about science is a wasted effort."

Um, no, all it reveals is that some people find entertainment in it. I wouldn't mind but you're using a rather un-scientific method to determine whether or not scientific articles are ever going to show up in newspapers.

Re:Science is complex. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535373)

Americans believe in so much nonsense that a new dark age can't be far off.

It is pretty annoying to see /.'ers get irked up about Science yet will ignore history as a method of study. When you use the term "dark age" as an analogy for modern times you have to compare the likenesses and differences between the two time periods.

First of all it is embedded in popular culture that the dark ages were times of superstition and religion. This is refuted by modern historians. Have a google search for yourself and find out. The term "dark ages" when used today by modern historians bespeaks that we really don't have much information about the early middle ages. That is all.

Secondly, if we are using the term "dark ages" as a historical analogy where are the likenesses and differences? Is there a difference between science then and now? What about religion? How does our society differ from the FUD of the "dark ages" that you think "can't be far off"? Do some independent thinking for yourself and analyse these questions and you'll probably find that the Media blows a lot of this out of proportion. Relatively speaking, the U.S. population has a pretty open Christian community that respects a lot of views. It isn't like the past. Today is completely different. Tomorrow more so.

Re:Science is complex. (3, Informative)

rebeka thomas (673264) | about 9 years ago | (#13535354)

Not only the science, but the interpreting of the results.
The world's bad reporters would have us believe tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people died and are in ill health because of chernobyl, but when it comes down to facts and reality 56 people are known to have died, and there are no profound negative impacts to the surrounding population.

Bad Science is all about getting attention for personal, political or financial gain.

Re:Science is complex. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535425)

Having millions exposed to radiation, hundreds of thousands having to leave their homes for decades, swaves of Ukraine and Belarus uninhabitable, and having children die of thyroid cancer are not profound negative impacts? pr38/en/index.html []

Re:Science is complex. (3, Interesting)

rebeka thomas (673264) | about 9 years ago | (#13535462)

Did you even read the link you gave? Quoting directly from it.

"By and large, however, we have not found profound negative health impacts to the rest of the population in surrounding areas, nor have we found widespread contamination that would continue to pose a substantial threat to human health, within a few exceptional, restricted areas"

Too many people react emotionally because they have been fed a diet of bad science from the beginning, and their belief systems override the facts they read every time. You are a prime example of this.

Re:Science is complex. (-1, Flamebait)

PakProtector (115173) | about 9 years ago | (#13535480)

Just like how people are so damn stupid about the fact that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki actually saved lives, and that the Japanese were not going to surrender after the first but before the second.

Re:Science is complex. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535377)

Alot of it is just laziness. The recent reporting of some important disoveries about the neurochemistry of anorexia nervosa have been complete cock ups. The journalists didn't do basic research to confirm what they were writing was correct.

cost/benefit ratios (5, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 9 years ago | (#13535426)

More often than not very well-trained and experienced scientists get it completely wrong.

GOOD scientists don't purposefully make statements that are absolute. Good scientists are guarded and pick their words carefully.

That said, somebody with a minimal scientific background (ie. a Journalism major) will very often screw up more complicated scientific articles.

Quite on the contrary. It is the same reason you only get reports about murders and status updates on Bennifer- media, on all levels (at least in the US) is owned increasingly by large holding groups. Holding groups do one thing well: try to squeeze every penny.

Scientific articles require more legwork, and that means fewer stories per person per day. "Entertainment" stories practically pay for themselves (free plane tickets, free hotel stays, free footage, free access to a popular star). Murders are easy to cover- listen to the scanner, show up and stand there for the live-on-scene footage, maybe interview a hysterical family member or friend. Tada, done. Celebs and blood sell; nerdy stories that are hard to research won't.

Science also doesn't jive with the "cover all viewpoints" they teach in journalism 101 (case and point, "intelligent design" vs. Evolution. Evolution is something the church gave up on decades ago, and the rest of the world knows is fact- but the American press feels "Intelligent Design" deserves presentation on equal grounds and parrots the President when he says it deserves "consideration".)

Re:Science is complex. (1)

bersl2 (689221) | about 9 years ago | (#13535432)

It is just that easy to be wrong.

warning (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535204)

the history is long. and boring

Pot Meet Kettle... (-1, Offtopic)

martian67 (892569) | about 9 years ago | (#13535207)

In related news..

Slashdot reports on its own editorial incompetence

(bye karma :( )

Bad Science? More like bad politics! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535210)

Seriously, Slashdot.

Why don't you stop beating around the bush and just state what's on the tip of your tongue. George W. Bush's faith based initiatives, crazy pseudoscience that would make most Russians wince and "Intelligent Design" which draw out the "other" fringe are the bane of your liberal existences.

The very fact that you are showing the same intolerance towards them that they are showing to the precepts and fundaments of your paradigm only serves to show that you need each other.

In short, conservatives are stupid. Liberals think they are smart.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 years ago | (#13535253)

I don't think Conservatives are stupid or Liberals are smart. I do think that the US conservative movement has spent too much time whoring itself to anti-intellectual religionists who haven't managed to wake up out of the Dark Ages and realize that science, unlike they're small-minded, superstitious world view, actually produces results. The United States did not become a superpower through prayer, it got there because it produced or imported researchers. Perhaps when the Conservative movement gets up the guts to tell the Evangelicals, including GWB, that being Conservative doesn't mean having to deny reality that doesn't fit with a Biblical interpretation which could best be described as simply idiotic.

On the other hand, I've seen a number of liberals who buy into crystals, magnets, feng shui, chiropracty and all other sorts of nonsense, and that sort of thing is just as harmful as anything any Young Earth Creationist or Intelligent Design advocate is going to pass off as Truth.

Don't you think science education is best served by keeping psuedo-science and barely veiled religious dogma out of the classroom?

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (5, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13535273)

Don't worry. Science will still progress. It will just be in places like China and Europe, where actual scientific progress and achievement is considered more important than appealing to everybody's religious belief system.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (2, Interesting)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | about 9 years ago | (#13535410)

It may take a second to political belief systems, however. How long did China insinuate the moon landings were a hoax? As for Europe, lots of good research comes out of there...but then, so does lots of bullshit like anti-gravity and zero-point energy.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (3, Interesting)

Stridar (325860) | about 9 years ago | (#13535427)

I would have to disagree. Science will continue in the US due to the excellent graduate programs, university systems, and corporate relationships between them.

And it will continue where ever it is unabetted by political--as opposed to any moral--influence. China for instance, has much too much political influence over their education systems to be the next springboard of discovery. As a result, Chinese students practically flee to the US after completing university. It is such a problem that in China, if one accepts admission to any graduate school within China all their identification will be seized by the government in an effort to insure you do not emmigrate. This does not help incubate a research community.

As for Europe, of course they are already sustaining a great research community,; however, governmental control is too prevalent to keep the top tier talent there. They simply can not pay enough to keep top tier researchers from emmigrating to US universities. And so their growth is not as great as in the US.

But if we are placing bets on the next large research community to complement the US, I'd have bet on India. IIT is producing, and attracting back to India, top tier talent.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535285)

what's wrong with feng-shui?

Chiropractic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535355)

Y'know, when I had a slipped disk a couple of years ago, chiropracty helped make me feel less pain. I think it's nonsense for much of anything else, but then again my chiropractor didn't CLAIM to be able to help with anything much except musculo-sketetal issues. A massage might have helped just as much -- but the insurance wouldn't have paid for that. It may not do much except provide temporary relief from an aching back, but that's more effect than than crystals and magnets.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (1)

shanen (462549) | about 9 years ago | (#13535363)

Well, I think you're trying to get to an important theme there, but you don't present it very well. That's as much of a problem as in the original article's fuzzy presentation of its hypothesis. Trying to struggle through his turbid mumbling, I think he's saying it's a problem with process. Kind of a lowest common denominator during the publication process where the articles get dumbed down to the speed of the slowest horse. (Like the cavalry, get it?)

Anyway, I basically reject his fuzzy hypothesis in favor of a clarifed version of what you may have been trying to say. To whit:

There are reasons for dumbing things down in "free" advertiser-sponsored media, and that is the root of the problem for science reporting, too. While there were some tendencies earlier, I think it really started developing in the radio days, reached new heights in the days of television, and (very sadly) is the direction that most of the Internet is going.

These publishers are NOT interested in created better informed and more selective thinkers. Remember who is paying the bill: the ADVERTISERS. What do advertisers want? The best educated customers? Nope. Only one advertiser (for a given product category) wants that, the one who makes the product offering the best value. If all of the potential customers were equally well educated, there would be slight variation for individual needs, but by and large all of them would select the same product, and all of the other makers would go down the tubes.

Except for the actual maker of the product with the best value, all of the other advertisers want to lie to you, and they've become VERY good at it. Lousy science reporting is just one of the minor symptoms of this social affliction. The current crops of miserable failure [] s in political offices is much more serious.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (0)

superpulpsicle (533373) | about 9 years ago | (#13535364)

Your posts was very good up until the part you mention feng shui is nonsense.

Do a simple test. Put a couch directly at your front door and almost block your front entrance. Put your computer next to your laundry machine. Then really screw up your furniture arrangement to make yourself absolutely uncomfortable for a few days.

Watch your mood and luck change. If this creates a negative effect, then feng shui can also create a positive effect.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535401)

How exactly does this practice validate feng shui?

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (3, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 years ago | (#13535411)

Translation: "All that other stuff is crapola, except my favorite pseudo-science!"

Ah my, that was good for a laugh.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (1)

lightningrod220 (705243) | about 9 years ago | (#13535438)

Feng shui is one of those things that kind of states what is already obvious to us.... like a religion that would say "don't shoot yourself in the foot, because it might hurt". People already know not to set their computer next to the washer. It's noisy, and not going to be comfortable. I could tell you that without all of the feng shui stuff. It's called common sense and analytical thinking, not feng shui.

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (2, Insightful)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 9 years ago | (#13535458)

Not so much...what you're talking about is "interior decorating" and "ergonomics." Those are generally art forms, with a few "best practice" rules. Feng shui, on the other hand, is mystical mumbo-jumbo that employs spirits, energy flows, and all kinds of other garbage.

There's a big difference between "let's paint the wall in the dining nook burnt umber to tie it into the cabinets in the kitchen, and hang drapes to match the couches" and "your ancestors will bring you peace because a red-brown dining nook frightens away harmful spirits."

Re:Bad Science? More like bad politics! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535327)

Seriously, Slashdot.

It is my hypothesis that in their choice of comments, and the way they cover them, the anonymous trolls create a parody of Slashdot, for their own means. They then attack this parody as if they were critiquing Slashdot.

On Teaching Science to the Media (5, Interesting)

jtangen (861406) | about 9 years ago | (#13535212)

There are many efforts directed at educating scientists about the journalistic process, but fewer that aim to educate journalists about science. One of the arguments for the imbalance is that it is more efficient for scientists to learn about media constraints than it would be for journalists to learn about science. Some argue that a lack of scientific knowledge on a journalist's behalf may actually benefit their interpretation of science publications, allowing the author to be less biased when translating the information for public consumption. Others believe that introducing science journalists to the scientific process will help to correct inaccuracies and omissions of important information in the media.

Re:On Teaching Science to the Media (1)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13535237)

I know people who majored in Journalism. While not stupid people, they are often not very science-minded. They got into journalism because they liked writing, and hated math. To expect them to become scientific experts, as well as journalistic masters and mistresses, is somewhat extreme.

Re:On Teaching Science to the Media (1)

jtangen (861406) | about 9 years ago | (#13535278)

I don't expect them to become experts per se. Public access to scientific information is often hindered by scientific jargon. Many people rely on journalists to provide access to scientific information by translating it into something that they can understand. To do so, it is essential that journalists reporting on science are capable of comprehending and explaining scientific matters.

Many efforts in analysing science communication result in similar criticisms of science journalism due to omissions of qualifying statements or relevant information, confusion of speculation and fact, over generalisation, inaccurate simplifications, misquotations, or unjustified emphasis and elaboration. At a minimum, journalism programs ought to include general science and specialised science journalism courses in their curriculum. In particular, subjects that develop skills in extracting and translating information from scientific journals, as well as exposure to the concepts of factual determinations.

Re:On Teaching Science to the Media (4, Insightful)

Herkum01 (592704) | about 9 years ago | (#13535297)

This reminds me a of a Simpsons episode were Lisa Simpson steals all the Teachers Editions of the school books. Without the teachers editions, none of the teachers had any answers.

The point? As a teacher who is dependent upon a book to give them the answers is not really much of a teacher; neither is a journalist that does learn the facts about what they are reporting. Readers do expect them to be experts but we certainly do not expect them to be totally dependent upon sources of dubious value or insight.

Re:On Teaching Science to the Media (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 9 years ago | (#13535374)

I don't expect journalists to be experts in science. I do, however, expect them to be experts in learning enough about fields in which they have no personal experience to be able to report on those fields accurately. Otherwise, what the hell did they go to j-school for?

Re:On Teaching Science to the Media (1)

jtangen (861406) | about 9 years ago | (#13535413)

Well, the other problem is that they are often the only providers of information that the public has. If they report it incorrectly, or assume any kind of knowledge on their part, it can get confused.

I disagree ... (4, Insightful)

oostevo (736441) | about 9 years ago | (#13535214)

The author says that:

"It is my hypothesis that in their choice of stories, and the way they cover them, the media create a parody of science, for their own means. They then attack this parody as if they were critiquing science. This week we take the gloves off and do some serious typing."

Granted my sample space of random, anecdotal evidence is probably much smaller than his, but he seems to attribute the poor reporting to some sort of grand conspiracy, or at least malice.

From what I've seen of bad science reporting (my professors often give examples in lecture for us to laugh at), the cause is nowhere near as malevolent -- it's simply writers who are not educated enough about science and the methods of discovery that surround it trying to simplify for their readers a scientific breakthrough like they'd simplify a speech or debate.

And they just don't understand it anywhere near enough to avoid cropping out hugely important parts.

Re:I disagree ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535360)

if you'd have continued reading the article instead of rushing to post here, you'd have seen that the author went on to explain this. he offers that it's not just direct malevolence that's at fault, but a systemic distrust of the sciences stretching back 200 years to the romantic humanities' earliest critics of science, empiracism, and reason. of direct malevolence, it's more simply because they wish to serve the needs of their master, the publisher, to promote that which sells papers and advertising space, not to mention that because they feel the need to dumb down science for their audience, it is best that they remain dumb to science themselves.

Re:I disagree ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535394)

There is a paradox that's taught in American J-schools and enforced by the media (print, broadcast, etc.) that, while it affects complex stories of all kinds, especially hits science:

Once an article is written, outside sources CANNOT read it. A reporter CANNOT show the full article to a source so that the facts or explanations to be checked out. This is a huge no-no boo-boo, probably falling under ethics, although I've never really understood why - but the practical effect of it is, basically, that the damage done by reporting erroneous content is considered to be far, far less than the damage done by letting sources edit stories before publication, and that accuracy by correction is plenty good enough anyway.

Excerpts are fine, but usually only when it's things that the source said. For example, if a reporter interviews me, a computer scientist, about Complex Computer Science Topic, writes a bunch of notes, and types up a report, there's a small chance he or she will send the parts where I'm cited to make sure that he or she is citing me correctly. Even this is pushing it, though - if I'm worried that the reporter is leaving something important out, I can mention it, and he or she can mention it to the editor, and if the editor shoots the reporter down, the article runs without it - and that's only if the reporter isn't a lazy sod. Remember, I only get the draft of only my comments back maybe once every 10 or 20 times I'm interviewed.

However, if that same reporter interviewed a colleague of mine who told the reporter a bunch of obtuse, useless crap, and gave him or her a horrible explanation of said crap, there is some unwritten (or possibly written, at some papers) rule where that reporter REALLY OUGHT NOT send me - a source who could maybe explain said crap better than his or her original source did - the draft of my colleague's interview. More than likely, the thought of doing so won't even cross the reporter's mind, but if they do it - which a couple brave souls have - and the editor finds out - as was the case for one moronic soul within that set of brave souls - there's a good chance they end up transcribing obituaries for a month.

Not sure if this is true for reporters outside America, but it certainly has been my experience as a source for journalists.

What is willful ignorance (3, Insightful)

vena (318873) | about 9 years ago | (#13535404)

...if not malice?

Not to mention that, as the AC above touched on, they serve two masters -- one of whom pays their salary, and it's not you and me. It's not like there's any big backlash against their reporting of science, but as much as some of us may think we've evolved beyond it, there is still a lot of distrust, ignorance, and general animosity towards science in the world. The media exploits this for ratings, it's not a new accusation by any means. And when it keeps people ignorant, it's malicious in my book.

Re:I disagree ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535434)

As both a scientist and a journalist (albeit, not yet a registered user at slashdot), I see the same poor editing choices from my editors, whether I'm talking about school lunches or bose-einstein condensates. It seems to be a universal trait of the newly-appointed editor that he/she believes any 1000 word article can be equally well expressed as a 500 word article if subjected to his own masterful excision.

Re:I disagree ... (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | about 9 years ago | (#13535483)

He states his hypothesis in the beginning (like any good paper), then shows a number of examples that support his hypothesis in the article. But if you bother to read to the very end, he gives some counter-examples that significantly detract from his hypothesis, and he puts forward a new one that he thinks does a better job of explaining the data.

The conspiracy is a very tempting explanation. I feel much the same way he does about the humanities after observing them from the outside. But I have to agree with him that the real reason is likely much more prosaic.

Irony. (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | about 9 years ago | (#13535216)

That the writeup is pretty much wrong in that this is much more like a hypothesis than a theory at this point.

Re:Irony. (3, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | about 9 years ago | (#13535317)

I thought we agreed not to worry so much about the difference between "hypothesis" and "theory" so we wouldn't have to use the "hypothesis of evolution" to destroy the "opiate of the people" and create our socialist paradise.

If you want decent scientific articles.. (3, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13535217)

.. stick with the science journals! At least there the articles will have been written by scientists, rather than mainstream media journalists. Let the everyday individual read the consumer newspaper and magazine articles, while people looking for correctness can go right to the source.

Re:If you want decent scientific articles.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535318)

Actually there used to be a time when you didn't need to stick with scientific journals. I remember Scientific American up to the late eighties. It was written by scientists in a language accessible to average educated readers. The format was to present some of the more interesting papers published to a wider audience usually by the authors themselves. It was so good that a lot of my colleagues scientists read it just to keep their intellectual curiosity about other fields satisfied a bit. Yes, scientists do get bored with their own fiedd as well, but it can sometimes be a useful inspiration to read something from a totally unrelated field.

However, in the last 15 or so years the quality of Scientific American is in steady decline. Rather than letting scientists work with the journal it is nowdays driven by (I guess) a strong and opinionated editorial team. As a result articles are too often opinionated, the contents following the current media stories rather than peer citations (scientific significance) even to the point where the commentaries are set to defend science. I say good scientific work is the best defense of science not hyped editorials. It would be nice to have a journal of some serious stature back on the news stands again, I'd be the first to switch subscriptions.

Boris Debic (too lazy to register).

Re:If you want decent scientific articles.. (2, Insightful)

lo0ol (799434) | about 9 years ago | (#13535319)

Yes, but isn't there something to be said about trying to improve the information quality for those "everyday individuals"?

Re:If you want decent scientific articles.. (2, Informative)

pete6677 (681676) | about 9 years ago | (#13535341)

Exactly. Mainstream journalism, by design, was never meant to be a reliable source for scientific information. It was meant to inform the masses by creating excitement which generates interest and therefore sells papers. Science isn't always interesting to the masses.

Another problem with mainstream journalism, and some pseudo-scientific publications may fall victim to this as well, is puff pieces that are written by PR firms. Much of what you read in the mainstream news, especially in the "Lifestyles" section, is not really news in the traditional sense, but a subtle advertisement provided to the newspaper via wire service written by an industry PR group. Reporters are sometimes lazy about checking sources and will just regurgitate the puff piece or use the article straight from the wire as opposed to doing real investigative reporting. This problem combined with the technical nature of scientific news makes it especially easy for industries with agendas to buy press from a PR firm and have the material end up in the newspaper.

Re:If you want decent scientific articles.. (1)

ornil (33732) | about 9 years ago | (#13535446)

I am not a biologist, nor am I a physicist. I have taken college courses in physics, but only high school courses in biology (always hated it, and so avoided it in college). Now, suppose I am interested in hot topics in both of these fields. Where do I get my information? I can't handle a specialized journal in some subfield, nor even a general journal, like Phys. Rev. Letters, because I don't know enough physics or biology. I do know statistics, math, and the philosophy behind the scientific method, so if a paper is dumbed down and jargon is avoided I can appreciate the quality of the paper. So, where do I get it?

people are lazy and stupid (4, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | about 9 years ago | (#13535228)

and that's about it.

Re:people are lazy and stupid (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 9 years ago | (#13535248)

Do U hav siuntiffick prufe uv that?

Our main weapons are laziness, stupidity, and... (1)

leonbrooks (8043) | about 9 years ago | (#13535296)

...the consequent boredom, which makes us suckers for sensationalism.

Re:people are lazy and stupid (2, Insightful)

ameline (771895) | about 9 years ago | (#13535392)

Close, but I think much is explained by the following two axioms; 1: Thinking is hard 2: People are lazy So people are stupid and uninformed *because* they are lazy.

Too much of either or both? (1)

MMaestro (585010) | about 9 years ago | (#13535397)

To be fair, some sciences are WAY too complex to be explained to Joe Average (most people don't understand how computers work let alone understand the physics of launching a spacecraft into deep space). On the other hand, some people are WAY too lazy to write a report easy enough for Joe Average to understand or Joe Average is too lazy to read a report that hasn't been dumbed down for his benefit.

hmm (1)

Lithgon (896737) | about 9 years ago | (#13535229)

Why is science in the media so often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong?

I believe it is to make it so that everyone can understand it. Not just the people researching it.

Re:hmm (1)

helioquake (841463) | about 9 years ago | (#13535414)

But making it "interesting to all" doesn't -- or shouldn't -- mean the article can be written inaccurately. Back in time when there was no picture to convey science through media (e.g., radio), I bet those reporters knew better how to formulate their thoughts and then to report the fact via eloquent words as accurately and vividly as possible. I guess that sort of thing is a dying art (or did science become that complex? I'm having a harder time believing that).

But I read... (5, Funny)

curteck (910935) | about 9 years ago | (#13535232)

...a scientific article stating that 73.3% of all scientific studies and statistics are wrong...

Applies to everything, not just science... (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about 9 years ago | (#13535233)

Reporters who have never touched a rifle report on the military, reporters who grew up in the city report on farming, reporters who never broke a sweat at heavy labor report on construction projects...
Actually, this is a lot like public primary education where teachers without specialties in any field teach specific specialty classes.

Re:Applies to everything, not just science... (2, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 9 years ago | (#13535365)

The difference is that journalists covering those other fields they know nothing about are expected to do their homework and, by the time they finish writing the story, know something about it. They don't always succeed, of course, but the editors' and readers' expectation is that they'll at least try. When it comes to reporting on science, OTOH ... well, TFA has it exactly right.

One point that's touched on in TFA, but perhaps not given enough attention, is the spurious idea of "balance," usually personified by getting a few words from a serious scientist on one hand and a few paragraphs from a quack on the other. This is how we end up with "ancient mysteries of Atlantis" and "professional paranormal investigators" and astrologers and creationists/ID'ers et al being taken seriously.

Doesn't always matter. (5, Insightful)

jd (1658) | about 9 years ago | (#13535370)

I'd be wary of a crime reporter who "kept current" by robbing the bank every time they went on location.

A science reporter doesn't have to know the subject, but they DO need to know how to do critical thinking. (Which, IMHO, is important for any journalist who wants to have integrity.)

Most importantly, they need to know:

  • How certain are the scientists of their result?

    • Statistics will usually be given with a percentage, which indicates the highest confidence level that can be given to the results. Because of the curious nature of statistics, these are given as the area of the tail on the stats chart, not the body, so the LOWER the percentage the better. A 5% confidence limit is generally regarded as evidence of a total LACK of confidence. You really want 1% or better. You'll see some results, though, with a confidence limit of 10% or even 20%.

  • How well-designed was the research? (ie: How ambiguous was it?)

    • The "null hypothesis" (what you are trying to disprove) should be something clearly-defined, with well-known bounds. It's preferable that the "null hypothesis" is whatever would be either whatever the system would naturally gravitate towards, or the norm, whichever you know better.

      In non-statistical studies, you use basically the same method. You assume that whatever you are testing shows nothing at all different, and attempt to falsify this hypothesis. It is extremely dangerous to go looking for something specific, because you'll normally find it - even when it's not there.

  • Were the scientists unduly influenced? Did they have a disposition towards a certain result?

    • You can pay a scientist - or anyone else - to say anything you like, if you've enough money. What they say, then, is important only if they have credibility as an impartial observer. As most science, these days, is funded by corporations, this is unbelievably scarce. However, paid-for work has zero credibility unless it can be verified by an impartial observer. At which point, it is still the impartial observer who matters, anyway.

  • Do the results actually say what the scientist(s) say they do?

    • This one is hard to guague, if you're not in the field, but you can look for tell-tale signs of a problem. If you can't see the methods used, if they didn't keep logs or lab notes of what they did, if they are vague about how you get from the data to the conclusions - these should tip off any competent journalist that something isn't right.

Re:Doesn't always matter. (2, Insightful)

orac2 (88688) | about 9 years ago | (#13535494)

This one is hard to guague, if you're not in the field, but you can look for tell-tale signs of a problem. If you can't see the methods used, if they didn't keep logs or lab notes of what they did, if they are vague about how you get from the data to the conclusions - these should tip off any competent journalist that something isn't right.

I think that you make some excellent points, but I'm afraid that ferreting out the state of logs, raw data, notebooks, etc (even to verify that they do in fact exist in any form), is not realistic, except in very unusual circumstances -- even the best peer reviewed scientific journals do not normally demand to see lab notes, after all. It's only when there's already heavy suspicion something is wrong that an investigation with enough authority to demand researchers produce their notes is formed. Obviously, if a journalist is making a site visit as part of their reporting, then he or she should be on the lookout for the Dodgy or the Shoddy, but even then they will only be able to make a superficial examination. In practice, unless there's some good reason not to, journalists -- just like other scientists -- have to take a researcher's word for it that they're not Making Shit Up.

Re:Applies to everything, not just science... (2, Insightful)

martinX (672498) | about 9 years ago | (#13535477)

Not where I come from. The country report is done by people from the bush. City reporters wouldn't understand the issues, so they wouldn't ask the right questions, they'd write incomplete stories that wouldn't fly...

To address your examples specifically, not everything in the military is about rifles. Oftentime, what happens in the military can be the same sort of thing that can happen working for any other larger employer: people are concerned about pay, health care, retirement benefits, etc. If commentary is needed about, say, specialist hardware, a good reporter will ask an expert in that field.

Likewise, important stories about construction projects probably won't be about hammering nails, but may be about management issues, cost overruns, investment. Th ereporter just has to know enough to ask the right person the right questions - a bit like a lawyer really. If there are engineerng issues, then ask an engineer.

I take your point about reporters being non experts, but I think that if you look, the good ones are knowledgeable and some papers/tv stations even go so far as to hire/keep on as consultants those wo were outstanding in their field but have since retired (thinking of military experts here).

Ooooh, that's a tough one (2, Interesting)

supabeast! (84658) | about 9 years ago | (#13535238)

"Why is science in the media so often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong?"

Because those things get ratings. Nobody wants to hear the truth - to most people it's boring and threatening.

real scientists... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535240)

There is a difference between pop scientists and academics. Academics know better than to trust one story in the news. Understanding is reached by gleeming information from dozens and dozens of studies that exhaustively research the subject. Real scientists also understand that many studies are finances by biased sources - medical studies and drug companies, for instance, and that this sort of information has to be taken into account.

Science is not News (2, Insightful)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | about 9 years ago | (#13535245)

It resolves things. Jornalism is about exciting people into anxiety about whatever important (preferably unsolveable) problems or stupid crap is available at the time to do it with.

Rewards and Punishment (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 9 years ago | (#13535263)

Publications will only fix the problem if it hurts their bottom line. Sensationalism and lack of fact checking appearently does not hurt them enough, and maybe even increases readership or profits, so they continue down the same path.

Anyone's got this guy's email address? (2, Funny)

sasha328 (203458) | about 9 years ago | (#13535266)

It looks like he's found:
So far I have captured the formulae for: the perfect way to eat ice cream (AxTpxTm/FtxAt +VxLTxSpxW/Tt=3d20), the perfect TV sitcom (C=3d[(RxD)+V]xF/A+S), the perfect boiled egg, love...
Wow. Icecream and Love. What else would anyone want in life?

Re:Anyone's got this guy's email address? (1)

mattjb0010 (724744) | about 9 years ago | (#13535289)

Wow. Icecream and Love. What else would anyone want in life?

H=(L+5)/2 where L is the size of the feet (in cm) and H is, well, you know what they say about the size of a man's feet.

(-1, Redudant ) for the Gardian (1)

brunokummel (664267) | about 9 years ago | (#13535292)

Why is science in the media so often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong?

Well apparently the articles author didnt have /. [] on his "research site list"

Like a proper little Darwin (0, Troll)

Trogre (513942) | about 9 years ago | (#13535305)

Like a proper little Darwin

Well there's a start to your bad science right there.

Re:Like a proper little Darwin (3, Insightful)

Anthony (4077) | about 9 years ago | (#13535408)

So you've read Darwin's works then. Which parts were you refering to?

The perfect topic for lazy journalists (1)

jokestress (837997) | about 9 years ago | (#13535309)

1. Report on latest science by press conference without bothering to read up (i.e. cold fusion or Clonaid).

2. Report on debunking of latest discovery later.

Two stories without any effort! The problem is that publicity-hungry hackademics have learned how to manipulate the media for personal and political gain. And the proliferation of half-assed science journals doesn't help either.

The wrong guys write. (5, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | about 9 years ago | (#13535315)

About 80% of the zines on the stands are owned by just a half dozen publishers these days. Their job is to sell zines, not benefit scientific understanding, unless their readership has some decided and saleable interest.

Journalists, bless them, aren't often scientifically trained. Look at the poor quality of the computer industry zines of the late 90's and early 00's. Most them are gone, and good riddance, These guys were better at covering sports than bus architectures and burgeoning CPU and OS monopolies. Getting scientists to write cogent articles for people that aren't buying an academic/discipline article is really tough. They get no recognition for that, just some cash. Only a few scientists can cross over to mainstream writing and be successful more than their research career gave them. So, there's a good reason why we don't get good science writing: publishers don't understand the need for quality; researchers are busy publishing in journals within their disciplines, and journalists make rotten scientists-- but better beer drinkers.

Because Aliens Cause Global Warming... (5, Interesting)

WombatControl (74685) | about 9 years ago | (#13535322)

Michael Chricton had an excellent piece on the decline of science reporting in an address at Caltech [] . His observations should be required reading because they get to the heart of what's wrong with "science" these days. (I use science in quote marks because it's only tangentally related to real science.) A sample:

Once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a press conference, then anything is possible. In one context, maybe you will get some mobilization against nuclear war. But in another context, you get Lysenkoism. In another, you get Nazi euthanasia. The danger is always there, if you subvert science to political ends.
That is why it is so important for the future of science that the line between what science can say with certainty, and what it cannot, be drawn clearly-and defended.

Hell, I remember as a kid reading "50 Things You Can Do To Save The Earth" or some other such claptrap that argued that some massive amount of the rainforest disappared every day - and a little multiplication found that if such a figure were true the rainforest (and all forests on Earth) would have disappared in a year.

Whether "intelligent design" or "global warming", science is being used as a tool of politics - which is something it is not and never should be.

Re:Because Aliens Cause Global Warming... (2, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 9 years ago | (#13535382)

It's always kind of amusing to see Crichton held up as a model of scientific thinking when, in fact, he's built a career on playing to people's worst (and silliest) fears about science. AFAICT, he's just as anti-science as the most rabid creationist, only in a different way.

2 things were spot on (5, Insightful)

i_should_be_working (720372) | about 9 years ago | (#13535335)

1) 'Breakthroughs' overhyped as if they're about to change everything. We see this all the time on /. 'Breakthrough in quantum-computing/ nanotechnology/ quantum-cryptography' The stories are overhyped 'cause it gets readers. Then here we get a bunch of armchair scientists hypothesising about the terahertz fast, petabyte large, unhackable computer everyone will have next year.

2) The media focusing on one or two scientists as if they have the ultimate say in how things are. Ignoring the fact that scientists aren't some monolithic beast with one scientist at the head.

Re:2 things were spot on (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | about 9 years ago | (#13535403)

---Then here we get a bunch of armchair scientists hypothesising about the terahertz fast, petabyte large, unhackable computer everyone will have next year.

We COULD have unhackable computers... If the OS'es werent soo unstable and built to be hacked.

If it really mattered, MS could have offered a stable system. Not just "stable", but as in mathematically proven. NASA does this for mission critical (i believe this is where the origin of this phrase came from) applications. The US Military does this for critical devices (detonation systems, guidance, and such).

And Linux was'nt built for security. It was built as a cheap substitute for Minix (unix that ran on x86 hardware). If Linux security really mattered, we'd have seen kernel setups that would provide verified untouched binaries of commonly used programs, sane setups for permissions (with ACL included, not as a bolt-on like now). Pretty much you're looking at a capability system...

And to talk about hardware... We use shoddy hardware for use with our software. And to mention, many parts and pieces of hardware have these great hardware bugs (2+2=3.999875378.., F00FC7C8, and many others) in which the drivers compensate for. Many hardware developers are too embarrased about that, so they dont release specs.

Bad science? How about just "Plain Bad Engineering"

I get the distinct impression (4, Funny)

JChung2006 (894379) | about 9 years ago | (#13535336)

that the article's author just got dumped by his "humanity graduate student" significant other.

Dupe (1)

Kerhop (652872) | about 9 years ago | (#13535339)

Of this [] recently posted on Slashdot.

Dope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13535465)

You must be a science journalist.

A very impressive rant (1)

MonkeyBoyo (630427) | about 9 years ago | (#13535349)

Though it probably included too many technical details that the bad science writers will not be able to understand.

Anonymous readers and the Guardian (1)

vought (160908) | about 9 years ago | (#13535380)

Two out of the last three front-page posts have been from anonymous readers linking to Guardian stories. Wha?

Re:Anonymous readers and the Guardian (1)

sane? (179855) | about 9 years ago | (#13535463)

Does this make it obvious []

Someone in a marketing company is going in for a little viral support to a relaunch.

Actually not that hard to understand (5, Interesting)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 9 years ago | (#13535384)

You can apply this to any subject of journalism, not just science. There is no grand conspiracy, as the poster seems to think.

Journalists exist to be published. That is their function -- that's what they love, to see their name in print. They don't really care what they say exactly; they only care that their article pleases their editors, which in turn sells more newspapers or magazines.

I got a real education when I lived next door to a fairly high-up Sports Illustrated reporter. In watching him do his work, he would basically try and find an angle, and then shape the facts to fit his angle. Technically, he wouldn't "lie", but he would definitely flake and form things to give the impression that he'd decided to write ahead of time. That was generally for background pieces that he would write, but even for sporting events he followed that formula. He would write his article before the event had even finished, sometimes with multiple endings in case things went for one outcome or another (this is Standard Operating Procedure in the industry).

In realizing his "algorithm" to producing articles, I began to look at other journalist articles. And lo and behold -- I saw the same sort of pattern. When you realize this, you can see the "angle" they've decided to write, and the pattern shows up like a flashing red light. All the successful ones do this. They decide ahead of time what would make an exciting article to write.

This is why people get misquoted all the time. It's because when a journalist talks to someone, they aren't interested in what that person has to say, they want specific quotes that they can use to back up whatever they are writing.

The publication, not the college major, is the key (4, Informative)

orac2 (88688) | about 9 years ago | (#13535390)

I think the type of publication is a very significant contributor to the prevalance of Bad Science reporting, even more so than the article's thesis of "Humanties Majors run amok."

If you look at many general interest news publications, whether they be monthly magazines or daily papers, you'll find they don't often even have a dedicated science reporter. Even when they claim to, it's really a "Health" reporter, who's often much more likely to cover the latest exercise craze or green tea fad than actual metabolic research from the NIH (incidently, at least one major science journalism prize now specifically excludes "health" articles for this reason.) Even when they do have science reporters, the Guardian's article makes a good point: unlike the financial or politics pages, the science beat reporter must assume no, or very little, prior knowledge of science, and this is enforced by their editors. While this may (sadly) be a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as scientific literacy among the public is appalling, you can see how it's a vicious cycle kind of thing. And it's the rare general interest publication indeed that would have more than one staff reporter or editor dedicated to covering science.

But I think there's still good science journalism out there, in the science and tech magazines, like New Scientist or Discover. Not only can you assume the audience knows what the terms "volt" or "DNA" mean, you can get much more space to give a real explanation of what's going on. While stories are still supposed to be timely, they're not usually tied to the daIly press release cycle either. And this type of publication is much more likley to employ people with science backgrounds. Here I should state my possible bias: I'm a science journalist for a monthly emerging technology magazine with a university education in experimental physics! But I should say that one of our best writers here, if not the best, was an English major in college. But after a few years now on the semiconductor beat he probably knows more about, say, dielectrics, than I ever did, not least because he had the time to learn, time often in short supply when one is the sole science reporter on a newsstand publication, and so have to cover the entire scientific waterfront. Reporters for science/tech publications can usually focus on a few areas at a time and really learn them in depth, and that makes a huge difference.

This is why I feel the publication makes a much bigger difference than some seething secret Romantic resentment from journalists to the quality of science reporting. It's the publishers and editors which set the standards for articles, not individual reporters, after all.

Humanics (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#13535416)

The real problem is the perpetuation of a war between "science" and "humanities" students/grads/researchers/writers. Even this Guardian article points its (stereotypical) criticism at "humanities" people, implicitly defending "science" people. Humanities writers, including many "social scientists" like historians (and especially the underlooked lawyers in that class), are just as antipathetic.

The division itself is a disservice to each profession. Scientists have to communicate science with humans, even other scientists. And humanities workers, even mere newpaper reporters, are governed by physical laws of evidence, causality, statistics. We're all in it together. And we all have to realize that we've each got our own languages, from mathematics to hiphop, that are just ways of representing the real world we're all struggling to understand and share with each other. Prioritizing one of those aspects is no excuse for neglecting competence in another. And seeing the struggle as scientist against humanist discards the real struggle, against misunderstanding and ignorance, thereby working for the enemy.

Just not enough smart people (1)

eatvegetables (914186) | about 9 years ago | (#13535431)

Ok, Ok, ... You're right, but so what. In the end, the problem is that there just aren't enough smart people to go around!

The human race simply doesn't have a sufficient number of high forehead, big cranium, think-o-matics to survey, understand, and concisely summarize even the small set of Earth shattering scientific advances this decade destined to raise the rest of us human krill up another notch on the societal evolutionary ladder.

C'mon how many people even have an elemental understanding of hugely important concepts such as relativity. Out side of West Virginia, I'd bet not too many! (Sorry, could resist the cheap joke.)

So, all you super smart folks don't be so darn up tight. Sit back and bask in the understanding that your copiously populated brain cells will keep you well employed and paid.

Science, media, politics and hype (4, Interesting)

Ogemaniac (841129) | about 9 years ago | (#13535435)

Unfortunately, science via the media is almost worthless, and there is a pretty broad consensus around here from what I can tell. It is even worse when politics are involved. Here is my reasoning as to why.

1: Scientists who work in a particular field are self-selected to work in that field. Of course a cancer researcher thinks fighting cancer is important, or a global warming researcher thinks protecting the environment is important. This is not meant to attack these people, but I hope that you realize that one should take account of this when listening to their opinions. The result of this is one layer of hype for their research.

2. The second layer of hype is funding. If you want money to cure cancer, save the planet, or build better Legos, well, the first step is to scream bloody murder about how big the problem is and how wonderful your solution is. Like it or not, but scientists have every reason to hype their research - and as a research scientist myself, I can assure you that this is the way things really happen. This is a second layer of hype.

3: Then we get to the media, which receives this already-double-hyped information from the scientists. Well, what is the media's job? Selling information...and we all know their basic strategy is....hype!. So the "science" the average Joe reads in the newspaper is now triple-hyped.

4: Finally, we get to the big issue - politics. Most politicians get their information not directly from scientists, but from various media sources, lobby groups, and think tanks. But as noted, this information is already triple-hyped. Do you want to guess what the politician does? He/she then selects the information that best backs his or her position, and then hypes it.

By the time your favorite politician spews anything related to "science", you can be rest assured that it has been hyped so many times that it now bears no resemblance to anything approximating fact, and should be duly ignored. Before you start finger pointing, please get over the fact that both parties do it and are equally as bad (research anything related to Republicans vs Global Warming, or Democrats vs genetics/race/sex for all the anti-science details).

cocktail?? or separate ingredients? (1)

jdunlevy (187745) | about 9 years ago | (#13535453)

analyses that prove how in some terracotta containers found on the banks of the Tigris river there were traces of tartaric acid (obtained during grape fermentation), honey, apples and fermented barley (used in beer).
Okay, so the terracotta containers at some point contained wine, honey, apples, and beer. What evidence does Patrick McGovern have that they were mixed together? Isn't it at least as likely that containers were used to ship various things, including wine, apple juice, honey, and beer -- and the same containers were then re-used to ship one or more of the others?

US Centric Post (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | about 9 years ago | (#13535474)

Perhaps it has to do with our daily TV & pop Magazine (Times, Life) and Newspapers that assume we're stupid and write/talk/present things to us as if we're at the 6th grade level.

If that's all you see, read, or hear 90% of the time - it will eventually filter down into your communication unless you actively prevent it. It will eventually spread to all media.

The british newspapers, I'm told, write at a 12th grade level.

If you ever watched the Daily Show where they showed the difference between George Bush's Social Security town hall meetings and the one PM Tony Blair did before his election - you will see the stark contrast in how the media treats it's viewers - intelligent adults vs. idiotic grown children.

(In short, it was 1000000 x more confrontational with people asking intelligent questions versus here where everybody had to kiss GWB's balls to ask a stupid & simplistic question)

I tried to find the clip but I can't find it.
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