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Scientists Themselves Play Large Role in Bad Reporting

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about a year and a half ago

The Media 0

Hugh Pickens writes writes "A lot of science reporting is sensationalized nonsense but are are journalists, as a whole, really that bad at their jobs? Christie Wilcox reports that a team of French scientists have examined the language used in press releases for medical studies and found it was the scientists and their press offices that were largely to blame. As expected, they found that the media’s portrayal of results was often sensationalistic. More than half of the news items they examined contained spin. But, while the researchers found a lot of over-reporting, they concluded that most of it was “probably related to the presence of ‘‘spin’’ in conclusions of the scientific article’s abstract.” It turns out that 47% of the press releases contained spin. Even more importantly, of the studies they examined, 40% of the study abstracts or conclusions did, too. When the study itself didn’t contain spin to begin with, only 17% of the news items were sensationalistic, and of those, 3/4 got their hype from the press release. "In the journal articles themselves, they found that authors spun their own results a variety of ways," writes Wilcox. "Most didn’t acknowledge that their results were not significant or chose to focus on smaller, significant findings instead of overall non-significant ones in their abstracts and conclusions, though some contained outright inappropriate interpretations of their data.""

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