Not only is science journalism susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it's uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism – this or that will either cure cancer or kill us all. So to promote good outlets while castigating the bad, we partnered with RealClearScience to create a handy chart.
Sometimes general assignment reporters are asked to cover complex science and health stories, which produces an entirely predictable product: Articles that are nothing more than rehashed press releases, topped with click-bait headlines based on misunderstandings of the original research. And here are some other ways it happens.
Besides deceiving readers about science policy, there are plenty of other reasons to avoid Slate. Perhaps best is that the online site loves posting contrarian articles using a time-tested formula to attract readers: Take an obviously-stupid statement and add a headline vigorously defending it. Whether the article is accurate, compelling or well-conceived is an afterthought.
Here at ACSH, we cover nearly every topic under the sun related to biomedicine, chemistry, health, epidemiology, and sports science. We are sometimes surprised to learn which articles are most popular with our readers. This year, our work on herpes vaccines resonated across the globe. In fact, one of them was the most popular article we wrote all year! (Kudos to Dr. Josh Bloom.) So, in case you missed them, here are the ten most popular articles we wrote in 2016 (yes, including two on herpes): #1. A Vaccine For Herpes Erupts In The News
Why America's supposed newspaper of record has become a voice for anti-biotechnology food activists remains a profound mystery. Maybe it's calculated, in that the paper is tailoring its reportage to its customers, consisting of mostly affluent, organic-food-eating elites. Evidence plays a small part in the Times' coverage of controversial scientific issues.
When ACSH's Alex Berezow was the editor of RealClearScience, he frequently linked to Pacific Standard's content. However, in recent months, he says the magazine as a whole has now become nearly unreadable. As its political cheerleading becomes more and more blatant, its standards for science journalism have fallen -- and that's no coincidence.
Traditionally, science has been a refuge from this hyperbolic nonsense. But no longer. More and more scientific journals are wading into partisan politics. Current Biology, in its most recent issue, has published a feature article that is every bit as ghastly as it is incoherent.
If you are educated by Google, you see Deniers for Hire have called us a "pro-industry front group" - Greenpeace, Mother Jones, NRDC, U.S. Right to Know, and SourceWatch, the whole cabal. The problem with their argument (other than the fact it is ad hominem) is that, if it really was true that ACSH is a corporate shill, we would have to be really, really bad at it, given our content.
If you want to find a hotbed of homeopathy, anti-vaccine, anti-GMO and other wacky anti-science rants, look no further. Pinterest is the 13th most popular website in America and the 32nd in the world. It's more popular than CNN. We here at ACSH fully intend to rectify this situation. We hope others join us in doing so.