science journalism

New polling data from Pew shows that most Americans don't consume any science news whatsoever. Given how out of step the American public is with scientists over many key issues -- from the safety of GMOs to vaccines -- this probably doesn't come as much of a surprise.

According to the poll, 17% of Americans are active science news consumers, while 36% come across science news at least a few times per week. (Obviously, that means 64% do not, which is concerning in an age where science and technology affect much of our daily lives.)

What does come as...

Kurt Eichenwald is an interesting guy -- in the same way that a 47-car pileup on the freeway is interesting. He is, according to his Twitter bio, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a New York Times bestselling author. He also has written for Newsweek, where he penned one of the best essays I have ever read about conspiracy theories.

You would think that a man with such enormous influence would wield it with great responsibility. But you would be wrong. Last year, he tweeted -- without any evidence whatsoever -- that he believed Donald Trump...

Like North Korea, everybody agrees that fake news is a big problem. But also like the Hermit Kingdom, nobody really knows what to do about it.

Facebook, a site from which a substantial number of people acquire their daily news, has decided that pages that post fake stories will be banned from advertising. That's a perfectly fine decision, but it raises a bigger and more profound question: Who decides which news is fake? Mark Zuckerberg?

The Trouble with Fake News

According to TechCrunch, Facebook collaborates with third-party fact-checkers to...

It's not an exaggeration to say that the American public hates the media.

A poll conducted by Gallup last year showed that merely 32% of Americans had a "great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in the mass media. A Harvard poll, reported by The Hill, concluded that 65% of Americans think the media publishes fake news.

Who can we thank for Americans' disgust with the media? Journalists like Brian Williams.

You remember Brian Williams. He's the former anchor of NBC Nightly News who was replaced for...

When it comes to food, biotech, and health reporting, the New York Times is at least consistent: It is guaranteed to be wrong every single time.

Recently, it ran a very strange article about traces of glyphosate in Ben & Jerry's ice cream. It's strange for two reasons: (1) Ben & Jerry's is vehemently anti-GMO; and (2) It doesn't matter if there are traces of glyphosate in your ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Gets 'Greenmailed'

Like Whole Foods, Ben & Jerry's has profited handsomely by scaring people about the safety of the food supply. The company is anti-GMO and supports GMO labeling. However, that...

There has rightfully been much public discussion on how to fight back against the scourge of fake news. We at ACSH attempted to shed some light on the issue by publishing a guide to detecting fake science news.

Perhaps just as troubling as the spread of fake news is the proliferation of non-news; that is, fluff pieces with little to no news value that seem aimed at generating clicks. The worthwhile goal of informing the public about relevant global events, which is presumably the entire point of journalism, has been replaced by entertainment.

Obviously, this isn't a new development, but it seems to have gone into overdrive in recent years. To stay in business, media...

Whether they like to admit it or not, scientists want to have a broad impact on society. Sure, recognition from other academics is nice, but most scientists would prefer to see their research splashed across the front pages of the New York Times and BBC News. How does one achieve that?

Obviously, it helps to have compelling research. As a general rule, the public thinks that aliens and dinosaurs are inherently more interesting than the sex lives of slugs. But new data suggests another important factor: Research papers should be given simple titles*.

Two European scientists examined the titles of 108 medical and health science papers that were ranked in the Altmetric Top 100 from 2013 to 2015. (...

It has been a gruesome few weeks for United Airlines. After making international headlines for dragging a paying customer off a plane, it earned yet more notoriety when a giant bunny died on one of its flights. 

This led Business Insider to research which airline was the worst when it came to pet deaths. Its investigation led to the brutal headline: "United had more pet deaths in 2016 than any other major US airline."

Ouch! But is it true? Technically yes, but statistically no. And it's the statistics that matter, not the raw numbers.

Here's the original graphic Business Insider created:

...

"Lying" is considered one of those words civilized people should never say. That's why politicians never use it. Instead, their opponents are "misinformed" or "misspeaking" or "using alternative facts." 

Well, the time for civility is over. Journalist -- if we can actually call him that -- Danny Hakim is lying to you. And it's not his first rodeo, either. He's built quite a track record for himself at the New York Times, publishing distorted information about GMOs and comparing agricultural pesticides to "Nazi-made sarin gas." 

Now, Mr. Hakim has written an...

A common question I hear again and again is, "How do I know if a news story is fake?" There is no easy answer1. It helps to be well informed, and it requires a conscious suspension of credulity combined with a gut instinct honed over years of experience. 

If journalism as a whole is bad (and it is), science journalism is even worse. Not only is it susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it is uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism. Every week, it seems, an everyday food is either going to cure cancer or kill us all. 

One thing experience has taught us is that some news outlets are better than others. Some journalists really do care about reporting the news as it is rather than the way they would like...