September 19, 2007

Keeping Journalists Honest

Saturn linkThis week on CNE I blog about competing interests among journalists, as brought up by Ben goldacre.

My own strongest demand to science journalists is simple: give literature references or at least a link to the paper you are basing the story on! The vast majority of articles at most give a passing reference to an author of a study and maybe a university, but that is it. Sometimes one gets a reference like "in this month's journal name" that often turn out to be erroneous.It makes it hard to actually check the paper for the interested reader, and contributes to the impression that most such articles are written straight from the university PR department's press release. The excuse that there might not be a room in the paper version might be true, but there is absolutely none for web versions of newspapers.

My admonition of course also extends to university PR departments: press releases should of course have references! Leaving them out just because journalists may leave them out is no argument; they do not cost anything, it is unlikely the journalists will be turned away by seeing it and it would help the university's credibility too.

Posted by Anders3 at September 19, 2007 11:45 AM