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Month: December 2019

Journalism: The first “message” received is the one remembered, even if later proven as false.

Journalism: The first “message” received is the one remembered, even if later proven as false.

Reports of a polar bear spray painted with “T-34” on its side were greatly exaggerated. The tagging was done by scientists, not pranksters. The bear had been rummaging a garbage dump and scientists wanted to see if it was returning. They tagged it with a short duration ink; this was not graffiti by pranksters as initially reported. Typical of this type of report, the original source for the video was unknown, the back story was unknown, and the video was shared on social media by an environmental activist. Media then used social media as a primary source. What could possibly go wrong?

Journalism: “Election Too Close To Call”

Journalism: “Election Too Close To Call”

As has become routine, the media’s pre-election coverage was a bit disconnected from the reality on the ground.

The day before the election, British media said the “election too close to call” but the day after, we see that the election was not even close, but decisive.

Climate communications: Professor of Atmospheric Science decries “Promoters of Climate Anxiety”

Climate communications: Professor of Atmospheric Science decries “Promoters of Climate Anxiety”

A professor of atmospheric sciences weighs in on the exaggerated, hyperbolic click-bait inducing media news stories and the negative impact they are having on mental health as many suffer severe climate anxiety. Many such stories are not merely exaggerated but false, which has led to the bizarre situation where a majority of younger voters in the U.S. believe humanity will be extinct within ten years. There is no scientific justification for these beliefs, illustrating how climate communications has gone off the rails.

Journalism: Exaggerated headline of the day “Most People Experiencing Homelessness Have Had a Traumatic Brain Injury, Study Finds” #TBI

Journalism: Exaggerated headline of the day “Most People Experiencing Homelessness Have Had a Traumatic Brain Injury, Study Finds” #TBI

“Most people” turns out to be 53%. A more accurate headline would say “About half” or “Just over half”. But what would be a news report without an exaggerated headline? (Disclosure – I have had multiple TBI including a skull fracture – this post is not about TBI or homelessness but about the exaggerated headline.)

#Climate communications: Dr. Hans Rosling on the problem of exaggerated claims, false urgency, leading to bad decisions on climate change policy

#Climate communications: Dr. Hans Rosling on the problem of exaggerated claims, false urgency, leading to bad decisions on climate change policy

Excessive exaggeration in climate communications is leading to “a situation where no one listens anymore. Without trust, we are lost.” Hyperbolic and unrealistic scenarios lead to the impossibility of reaching workable solutions. Coupled with the salesman’s technique of a false sense of urgency, we create unnecessary stress – which leads the target to give up and tune out. Under urgent pressure, we make bad decisions with even worse outcomes. That’s a summary of comments from the late Dr. Hans Rosling, in his book Factfulness.

Nutrition: the role that propaganda played in picking the wrong villain

Nutrition: the role that propaganda played in picking the wrong villain

Yudkin argued that excess sugar was causing health problems. Keys argued that sugar was not the problem – the consumption of fat was causing health problems. Keys was effective at loudly denouncing anyone who criticized his fat hypothesis. For 40 years, we were told to avoid all fats and that sugar consumption was not a problem. Propaganda messaging played a major role in persuading the public that any fat in the diet was bad while simultaneously asserting that sugar consumption was not a problem for most people.