Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Good Speech, but Bad Reporting

  1. Feb 22, 2007 #1

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I probably shouldn't be too hard on this, because this is only a college newspaper. But still, the level of science "illiteracy" here is quite astounding for someone in college.

    This is a news report of a speech given by Frank Wilczek at, I believe, Oklahoma State University. Anyone who has attended one of Wilczek's talk would understand anyone being entralled by what is being presented. Still, this reporter obviously should have at least basic level chemistry, if not physics. There are just way too many unexpected errors and outright silliness in the report. It also means that the editor of this student newspaper is also science illiterate, since something like this could passed through without proper editing.

    See how many strange things that you can spot in this news report.

    If nothing else, this is a clear illustration why some schools in the US are beginning to have a multi-disciplinary field of studies, where students major in, let's say, science with emphasis on communcations. It is hoped that these students would have a good science background and then would go into journalism. This news report clearly show that the reporter can, at best, interpret what she saw and heard through her own understanding (or in this case, lack of understanding). Unfortunately, for the million of people who did not attend this lecture, such a news report is their only means of information about what was said. It clearly shows that in our popular media, the information that we get is actually "filtered through" the level of competency of the people who are reporting it. This is the one clear case where the reporter clearly didn't get what was being said, but how many others that we read that aren't as clear as this? How many people who rely on getting information were actually being steered in the wrong direction, or were given the wrong interpretation?

    You need someone who has some level of competence to at least report something like this. Obviously, this student newspaper didn't have anyone with a science background to cover the story.

    Zz.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2007 #2
  4. Feb 22, 2007 #3

    Kurdt

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

  5. Feb 22, 2007 #4
    Well yeah it's just the tip of the iceberg. People really don't care about quarks & I might add they can't really learn anything from a news article.
     
  6. Feb 22, 2007 #5

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Quarks are my favorite molecules.
     
  7. Feb 22, 2007 #6

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    At least the student newspaper's editors should have such articles reviewed before publishing them. That was pretty pathetic - most of those mistakes and misinterpretations would not have made it past a reasonably bright HS student.
     
  8. Feb 22, 2007 #7

    Gokul43201

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Not only does that "reporter" display a giant hole in basic science knowledge, but also can't string a half-decent article together if her life depended upon it. I'm not sure if I am more troubled by the terrible science knowledge or the pathetic writing skills of the "journalist".
     
  9. Feb 22, 2007 #8

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I wonder if we have anyone here who goes to Oklahoma State? If there is, you could write a letter to the editor pointing out (i) the mistakes in the article (ii) how embarrassing it is for the school and newspaper, and (iii) they are being made fun of on PF!

    :)

    Zz.
     
  10. Feb 22, 2007 #9
    Why don't WE write to the editor, directly ?
     
  11. Feb 22, 2007 #10

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I'm not sure she even spelled her name correctly.

    At least this wasn't her first article. She's versatile - from a parking lot to a Nobel Laureate in just two weeks! Or else the paper sees both stories as having equivalent significance.
     
  12. Feb 22, 2007 #11

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yes, one would hope that even if her science knowledge were completely lacking, that she could at least write well if she's interested in journalism. But, writing ability seems to be declining as badly as science knowledge.

    Zz, maybe you should write a letter to the editor pointing out the more egregious errors. It would be a good lesson for everyone working on the paper to be more careful with their fact-checking. If they don't have the background to understand the talk well, that's no excuse for poor writing. The best approach would have been to contact Frank Wilczek and ask him to read it before publishing it if they had no sufficiently knowledgeable editor and that way allow him to correct any mistatements before they appeared in print. That would be responsible journalism, to go up to someone and say, "I'm writing a story on the talk you gave here last night, and would like to verify a few things for accuracy. Can I send you a draft to look over before I give it to my editor?"
     
  13. Feb 22, 2007 #12
    Yea, speaking as a high school student I can point out quite a few errors.

    Every other paragraph is a sentence long, wowzah. The complexity of this persons sentence structure would be expected of someone in grade 7 or something. Hopefully it is just an odd case or something.

    Her title was creative though... :tongue:
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2007
  14. Feb 22, 2007 #13

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Oklahoma State has its own physics dept. I think one would hope that someone there would at least write to the editor and point out all the mistakes and outright misconception that this person made, and what the editor let through. I think it would be a sad situation that someone else outside the school has to be the one pointing out such things.

    Zz.
     
  15. Feb 22, 2007 #14
    I fail anglish? Thats unpossible! -Ralph wiggum.
     
  16. Feb 22, 2007 #15
    What this tells us is that popular lectures in physics should be about molecules, electromagnetism, heat, etc. We are 100 years away from giving coherent popular lectures on SR or basic QM...

    Seriously, even quarks are too boring for the public, we need to entice them with string theory:yuck:
     
  17. Feb 23, 2007 #16

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It's beside the point, but, actually, the article conveyed enough information to give a strong suspicion that the lecture was one of Wilczek's standards, which is available on video tape.

    http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/253/
     
  18. Feb 23, 2007 #17

    Gokul43201

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The newspaper's primary audience is its student body. They really don't care about the opinion of someone half-way across the country.
     
  19. Feb 23, 2007 #18

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I suspect that she tried to take notes during the lecture, but having no knowledge, she just wrote down bits that sounded like they might be important - she didn't grasp the nature and purpose of the lecture. Once she was done, she had a few scribbled quotes, and that was it. She had nothing to make a story out of. I suspect her journalistic skills are less to blame than her "fish understanding a bicycle"-ness.
     
  20. Feb 23, 2007 #19

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Gokul once said something along those lines in a thread about the "What the Bleep" movie.

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=54188

    Hits the nail right on the head.
     
  21. Feb 24, 2007 #20

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Poor Ralph obviously needed to be taught a wider variety of cromulent expressions.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Good Speech, but Bad Reporting
  1. Bad science reporting (Replies: 8)

Loading...