11 September 2012

Media Faux Pas...

I've just added a new category on here, which is "Media Faux Pas". This is in response to what seems to be an ever-increasing problem in the media, who so often grasp at an element of the whole issue, or at fear-mongering and sensationalist words like "epidemic" and "disease" - and then spout a bunch of ill-supported or poorly described information at the general public, but claim to be stating facts.

Sometimes it's a media outlet of somewhat ill-repute, so if we have an inquiring mind, we take their comments with a grain of salt; we might not assume they are presenting us with the whole truth. Some of us might research further on information presented by a less reputable organisation. While I feel their input into the social rhetoric and their contribution to the overall hegemony can be vast, I am of the belief that in contrast, the more reputable media organisations ought to subject themselves to an even higher standard of scrutiny before they release their comments into the public arena.

A reputable media organisation reaps great benefit from that very reputation, so they need to work to deserve that reputation. They must always work to ensure that if they present something to the public, it will withstand the test of scrutiny.

This is primarily because being a reputable outlet means that most people will believe what is being said. So if the information is erroneous or presented as fact when it's not supported by relevant experts (for example), it can cause greater long term harm, because more people will see the content as credible.

Below is a very recent example from the New York Times. Here's the intro paragraph:

"So here’s the short of it: At least a subset of autism — perhaps one-third, and very likely more — looks like a type of inflammatory disease. And it begins in the womb."
Click to read on:

"An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism"

It's an interesting article, but even that title had me worried at the outset. The title is a statement, not just an idea or a question. It puts itself up there next to the announcement of the scientific fact that autism is now found in 1 in 88 children. The author basically says he knows the cause of autism in that title. Very irresponsible, in my opinion.

Anyway, I'm not a scientist, so here's another very detailed article which goes into proper analysis of the content in the NY Times item.

Autism, immunity, inflammation, and the New York Times
"On Saturday, the New York Times online ran a piece from its Sunday Review Opinion pages entitled, “An immune disorder at the root of autism.” The piece is packed with overstatements and overinterpretations and lacks much-needed modulation and qualification. More than that, it promises a "preventative" for autism that is, pardon me, off the hook(worm)."

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