The link between the scientific community and journalism has always been a delicate one. Throughout my career I have been continually misquoted by the media – in particular the right wing attacks of Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman (who seem to sacrifice journalistic integrity in favour of sensationalism and political agenda). More recently, The Australian newspaper painted the colourful headline “Barrier Reef can adapt to warmer times“, to which the lead author of the study, Dr Madeleine van Oppen later responded with: “the article in today’s Australian is a miss-representation of our work“. Along similar lines, an article in the BBC News entitled ” When science and journalism collide” is well worth a read.
Scientists, operating in a culture which places enormous importance on accuracy and precision, can find reporters’ occasional sloppiness infuriating.
Equally, journalists often find scientists unworldly in their insistence on caveats and qualifications at every turn and their use of technical language, when reporters are desperately trying to simplify complex concepts and make them accessible to a general audience.