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The Media Mistakes PR for Science July 29, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Science.
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The news media continues to get low marks for science reporting. Via Ars Technica:

Last Friday produced a clear indication of why. Multiple news sources credulously repeated health “facts” that were essentially made up. The reason? Someone claiming to suffer from a condition that doesn’t appear to exist is releasing an album named after the apparently nonexistent condition, and wanted to raise its profile. In short, the news reports provided false health information because the reporters fell for a PR stunt.

Reports appeared in The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Daily Mail, and were picked up by Fox News and spread as far away as India. The articles describe the tormented life of a British DJ who is convinced that WiFi signals set off a variety of health symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, and nausea. […] And he is apparently not alone; the reports consistently claim that two percent of the population suffers from the same issues.

There’s a fundamental problem here: the condition, electrosensitivity, doesn’t appear to exist. A variety of studies that we have covered in the past show that people who claim to be electrosensitive are incapable of determining whether there is an active wireless signal in their vicinity. In multiple blinded studies, they did no better than random chance when asked to identify whether equipment that broadcasts on WiFi or cellular frequencies is active.

The article goes on to cite reasons, from physics and biology, to doubt that electrosensitivity could exist.

The news media will apparently print anything that will attract readers with no regard for facts.

The social function of media is to inform the public. But when our media institutions are transformed into profit centers serving corporate interests, the journalistic standards of excellence that aim at informing the public are corrupted. There are good people that work in mainstream media but as an institution it is rapidly succumbing to the business imperatives that are undermining its legitimacy.

 

 book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

or Visit the Website: www.revivingliberalism.com

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