With staff from Britain’s most popular newspaper suffering dawn raids by police for suspected phone hacking, the second most popular newspaper recently winning the Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation (nomination by yours truly), and a great proportion of the news-stand still suffering a severe preoccupation with the female anatomy while failing to accurately report any actual news whatsoever, it is a good time to reconsider your newspaper.

UK Newspaper Readership Wordcloud Is Your Newspaper Making You Ignorant? A Scientific Analysis

A graphical representation of UK newspaper circulation (NRS)

I’ve created a handy scientific* guide based on the results of last year’s National Readership Survey:

bullshit vs National readership survey UK newspapers Is Your Newspaper Making You Ignorant? A Scientific Analysis

Bullshit vs NRS Readership Estimates (January '11 - December '11)

Research has demonstrated that the most popular and most trusted US news network may actually leave viewers both less informed and even more misinformed** than people who watch no TV news at all. I’d be willing to bet that these findings can be replicated in readers of the leading British newspapers. That’s my research proposal, any takers? It’s already been demonstrated that the majority of diet related health claims printed in the top ten newspapers are false and the bullshit certainly doesn’t stop at health or even science, so surely testing the effect of misinformation is the logical next step.

*I am of course using the term “scientific” as understood by the newspapers in the upper quartiles of this chart (by that I mean that this scientific analysis is “something I pulled straight out of my arse”). I would however, love to see this research carried out for real. The word “bullshit” has an entertaining definition, described in exquisite detail by Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt (PDF). Frankfurt’s definition applies perfectly to the contents of Britain’s leading newspapers.

**The FOX-misinformation research, (a poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University and a poll by worldpublicopinion.org) should appear of dubious quality to the informed reader but the research is certainly well within the standards of the Daily Mail, who recently carried an article based on promotional research (that doesn’t appear to even exist) apparently conducted by restaurant chain “TGI Fridays” and the Telegraph who continue to run polls that are so spectacularly biased that they are effectively rigged.


Frankfurt, H. (2005). On Bullshit. Princeton University Press

Cooper, B., Lee, W., Goldacre, B., & Sanders, T. (2011). The quality of the evidence for dietary advice given in UK national newspapers Public Understanding of Science DOI: 10.1177/0963662511401782

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tommi-Henriksen/1440962761 Tommi Henriksen

    My proposals for a preliminary investigation of the hypothesis:
    First, check the letters page for facts per inch. This should give a reflection of the editorial balance between fact and BS in a concentrated form;
    Second, check the notes, queries and corrections published. All these publications have made mistakes, but an intelligent mind will bow to weight of evidence against their publications.

  • http://yorksranter.wordpress.com/ Alex
    • http://neurobonkers.com Neurobonkers

      Ha! Wow I hadn’t seen your post, great minds.. 😉 Nice take on it! It’s certainly more scientific than mine!

  • Anonymous

    Our culture makes us science ignorants:

    It takes a change of culture, of the mode of reactions to
    circumstances, to effect a change of habit. Genetics is the progeny of culture,
    not vice versa. This applies in ALL fields of human activities, including
    economy, to ALL personal and social behavioral aspects.

    Since the early 1900’s ALL “science” has been taken over by
    the Technology Culture of the religious Americans, represented by the
    trade-union-church AAAS. Plain and simple. There has not been any science in
    the world since then except “religious-American-science”.

    On the blissful religious science ignorance…:
    USA-World Science Hegemony Is Science Blind

    Since the early 2000s I have been posting many articles on
    science items surveyed and analyzed by me, without religious
    background-concepts. I have been doing this because I was deeply disturbed by
    the religiosity of the 1848-founded AAAS trade-union and by the consequent
    religious background-tint of its
    extensive “scientific” publications and activities.

    On my next birthday I’ll be 88-yrs old. I know that I’m
    deeply engaged in a Don Quixotic
    mission-war to extricate-free the
    USA and world Science from the clutches and consequences of the
    religious-trade-union-church AAAS, adopted strangely by the majority of
    scientifically ignorant religious god-trusting Americans and by their most
    other humanity following flocks…

    But I am sincerely confident that only thus it is feasible
    and possible to embark on a new, rational, Human culture (Scientism) and on new
    more beneficial and effective technology courses for humanity…

    Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)
    Energy-Mass Poles Of The Universe

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