Friday, 8 March 2013

The problem with reporting of medicine and science in the media

If you've ever idly glanced at a copy of the Daily Mail (or indeed any tabloid) you will have seen one of many science or medicine scare stories - 'Toffee Causes Cancer', 'Red Meat kills', 'BBQ sausages make you go blind', 'Today is the most depressing day of the year' etc ... ad nausea.

What you might not know is that due to the lack of proper science journalism these pieces tend to be written by staff reporters with no knowledge of science or statistics who run to extraordinarily tight deadlines. These factors have conspired to enable PR companies to publish poorly conducted surveys on behalf of clients to plug one product or other via a press release that sounds on the surface like 'science' but is in its entirety an advert, a free advert that receives extensive coverage in the national press. Due to time and knowledge constraints for years, reporters have simply reproduced these PR sciency adverts as 'news' whilst literally lifting 80 to 90% of the copy direct from PR companies press releases.

The scandal of course is that members of the public, uneducated in science or unwilling or unable to engage with complex subjects 'believe' the hackneyed stereotypes and poor logic contained in these stories.

As a rationalist and working within the health industry I maintain an interest in this area and would like to recommend the following additional sources for readers of my blog.

Firstly the Bad PR blog by Michael Marshall. Marsh focuses on this topic regularly. He is also co-host of the Mersey Side Skeptics Society podcast 'Skeptics with a K' and he runs over this issue in some depth on this weeks edition : episode 93. One of the two examples he uses in this episode interestingly involves Benenden Healthcare.


If you're interested in a free review of your medical insurance cover (family or company paid) please get in touch :
Tel - 07792 075748 or 0113 3474395
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Phil Knight
Independent Healthcare Consultant

I'm a totally independent healthcare intermediary with 20 years market experience, not tied to any insurer, full FSA regulated and part of the Premier Choice Healthcare Group. FSA Number 312878

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