Now I admit, I wasn’t always a brilliant reporter. I probably introduced as much liberal bias into my local newspaper as any one person could while working for a company which called itself Libertarian but just seemed to be plain ol’ backwards conservative (I say that because there are some notions that Libertarians have which aren’t disagreeable, one being that subjects like same-sex marriage should not be up to the people getting married, and not up to whether super conservative jerks want to ban it or not). Sometimes I even went all liberal intentionally.
Still, I don’t believe I ever even sniffed at the idea of arguing against a scientific viewpoint with a non-scientific viewpoint. I’ve seen pieces written on the debunking of the austism/MMR vaccine connection. I find it shameful that celebrity personalities campaign to get parents to stop vaccinating their children when they could be raising money to help parents cope with autism, to help autistic kids be able to deal with the world around them, especially with how to deal with those who will treat them like crap for being the way they are.
It is shameful when junk science is quoted because it detracts from the real issue.
Sound familiar? Well, I’d say that false equivalencies, along with other damaging media tropes, including sensationalism and over exposure of a limited number of “top news” stories. Another disturbing trend is seeing scientific or medical stories being written by journalists who simply don’t have the ability to fully comprehend what they are writing about.
If a person is writing about the latest in genetics research, but doesn’t know what “mitosis” is right off the top of his or her head, that’s a problem.
In today’s world, where so much stigma against fat people occurs in the form of “news” stories from main-stream media outlets, it’s becoming more and more important for people to be aware of journalism at its meta-level. We need to know HOW stories are conceived of, researched, how interviews are set up and conducted, and most of all, how stories are written and edited before finally being published.
This is one aspect of journalism that many people may have a passing awareness of, but not the sort of in-depth knowledge that it takes to begin to deconstruct “media” as an institution.
This is the reason why I follow RH Reality Check and Beauty Redefined. There are a lot of women and men who have studied media, communications, journalism, and other related subjects who can look at the cultural products we take for granted — written news and television news, news magazines and other magazines, blogs and online periodicals — and pick apart not just what is being said, but the WAY it is being said. When we are made aware that actually, it is biased reporting to have a story on childhood obesity that features a politician and a person working for some sort of food corporation, before even presenting the point of view of a doctor, and especially a doctor who sides with the government-endorsed view that BMI is a good judge of “health” (even though other doctors insist that health and body weight are too complex to be reduced to a simple equation), we can put a story on a [hypothetical] situation in which a state legislative body trying to ban fast-food advertising around schools (I’d love to see my state and others actually do this!) into context.
But hey, maybe that’s what I and so many others are here for, to either make this point or pass along news stories that make this point to ANYONE who will listen. It’s horrible that in an age of information, people have to keep in mind this idea, “reader beware”, but we do, sometimes just for our own mental health!