October 19, 2010

Bruce Murphy acts surprised

At a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel stem cell story:
This is balanced reporting? You get a scientist on one side and a nonscientist and polemical advocate on the other side to make a claim to the contrary?
I think Mr. Murphy is too sophisticated an observer of the press not to recognize this as a typical example of reporting on science, where Young Earth creationists are elevated in expertise commensurate to research biologists, and where reporters allow Ron Johnson to get away unchallenged with comments such as, "I certainly do not believe this is settled science and some pretty eminent scientists have come to my defense on this one," as he told journalists on October 8.

The "pretty eminent scientists" to whom candidate Ron Johnson refers came to his alleged defense in a factually inaccurate letter published in late August by none other than the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and include a notorious Tea Party barker and yet another who "claims to be an expert in 'dowsing,' the practice of finding water, metals, gemstones etc. through the use of a Y-shaped twig."

And, perhaps best of them all, this unlucky fellow:

George Taylor — Very rarely right about anything.

Pretty eminent scientists, you say. Not exactly. In fact a couple of the letter to the editor's signatories are not scientists at all.

One teaches business marketing — at a college in Australia. Which, come to think of it, does sound a lot like what might pass for a pretty eminent scientist in Ron Johnson's Fox News fantasy world.

Apart from the occasional misbegotten result of reporters attempting to "show both sides" of some controversy, surely they have the necessary tools to explode this fatuous statement of Ron Johnson's.


Cory Liebmann said...

I wonder if Scott Walker was citing Armacost's "research" when he declared during the last debate that it was a "scientific fact" that adult stem cells were best?

gnarlytrombone said...

There's some irony in this. As scholars like Phil Meyer point out, the concept of journalistic objectivity was derived directly from the philosophy of science. It was intended to be a method for verification and for testing the reporter's assumptions, not as a guide for "fairness" or "balance" in presenting information.

The latter nonsense is nothing more a marketing scheme designed to avoid angering readers, sources and advertisers. Many observers have pointed out that as journalism's mass audiences are "unbundled," it will someday dawn on editors and publishers that trying to push the same, lame story on YECs and yuppies, hicks and hipsters, is precisely what's pissing everyone off.

illusory tenant said...