There’s a wonderful Bad Science column by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian all about media coverage of science and why media reports on science are uniformly horrible. Here’s an excerpt:
Science stories usually fall into three families: wacky stories, scare stories and “breakthrough” stories.
Goldacre provides a nearly complete taxonomy of the types of mass media reports on science that you are likely to find. There’s this mini-rant which should be framed and handed out to any scientist who is talking to a journalist:
Last month there was an interesting essay in the journal PLoS Medicine, about how most brand new research findings will turn out to be false. It predictably generated a small flurry of ecstatic pieces from humanities graduates in the media, along the lines of science is made-up, self-aggrandising, hegemony-maintaining, transient fad nonsense; and this is the perfect example of the parody hypothesis that we’ll see later. Scientists know how to read a paper. That’s what they do for a living: read papers, pick them apart, pull out what’s good and bad.
Scientists never said that tenuous small new findings were important headline news – journalists did.
There’s too much good stuff in the column to excerpt any more. Go read the whole thing!