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.
I’ve created a handy scientific* guide based on the results of last year’s National Readership Survey:
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 Purchase prednisone from Boston.
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: 10.1177/0963662511401782Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
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