Paused for thought

Paused for thought

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sensationalist Headlines

I recently read an article behind the headlines that a bar of chocolate a day can help you lose weight. It was really interesting. I'm well aware that the media like to pick up stories and sensationalise things, but I hadn't realised just how lazy they are in getting their facts and arguing for access to actual data to support their stories.

It reminded me of an opinion piece I read a few months ago advising of the impact of eating sugar when pregnant (that links have been made between a mother eating sugar and childhood obesity) and there have been countless others. We must do one thing, we mustn't do another. I recall a time when broccoli was a cancer busting super food. More recently is has been written that it's "toxic" and could be to blame for having an underactive thyroid.

I do appreciate freedom of speech. It enables me to spend a balmy evening writing my thoughts and opinions which are no more grounded in scientific research than a lot of the articles I'm referring to. But surely there comes a point when it's not sensible to allow half thought out poorly researched articles to be published? Especially in the mainstream media. So many people depend upon newspapers to present them with facts and therefore assume that if a story is published it will be accurate. Not many people read the retraction or amendment notes wedged quietly in the middle of the paper a few days later in tiny print and muddled in among adverts or squeezed quietly under another over-hyped story.

It’s not just science based stories that get this treatment of course. Opinions are offered on individuals, different shops, sports, you name it it’s there. And so is the audience unwittingly taking it as fact. I’m not suggesting for a moment that any of us should stop reading newspapers, certainly they have their place in providing information to the public, but perhaps more that we should see them as reporting the beginnings of a story rather than a completed one; opinion pieces which are for entertainment and not to be taken seriously; stories which have been printed without proper research and investigation by an inquiring mind. For the fact, perhaps you would be better off undertaking the research yourself.

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