Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 5 June 2010
“Fish oil helps schoolchildren to concentrate” was the headline in the Observer. Regular readers will remember the omega-3 fish oil pill issue, as the entire British news media has been claiming for several years now that there are trials showing it improves school performance and behaviour in mainstream children, despite the fact that no such trial has ever been published. There is something very attractive about the idea that solutions to complex problems in education can be found in a pill. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday December 29 2007
Nobody listens to a word I say: I’ve been saying it for so long now that I think I’d be sorry if they did. Scaremongering season kicked off with the Panorama WiFi special. Among its many crimes against sense, this program featured “independent testing” by – oh, hang on – a campaigner against WiFi, who also sells his own brand of special protective equipment to those frightened about WiFi. The BBC have since upheld complaints. Immediately after the show was broadcast, the Independent were promoting elaborate quack devices to protect against WiFi: these will take off in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »
I went to a lecture by the Freakonomics guys a while ago, and someone asked about the routine inaccuracy of news stories in the media. Look, said one of them (although I’ve got no idea who): the thing about journalism is, people expect it to be a true account of the world, but we’ve forgotten what the nature of journalism is. A reporter isn’t a superhuman essayist researcher, they are your surrogate, your proxy. When there is a fire on your street at two in the morning, and you can’t be bothered to go out in the rain, a reporter goes along in your place, and tells you what’s going on, but he only does what you’d do: gossips with the neighbours; gets a word or two from whichever member of the emergency services happens to be walking past; and passes that on.
Read the rest of this entry »
Madeleine McCann is a 4 year old girl who went missing from her parents’ holiday hotel room in Portugal 5 months ago. Danie Krugel is an ex-policeman in South Africa who believes he can pinpoint the location of missing people anywhere in the world.
He does this using his special magic box, which works by something to do with “quantum physics”, “complex and secret science techniques”, a secret energy source which nobody is allowed to know about, and a strand of the missing person’s hair or some other source of DNA. His secret method can miraculously pinpoint the missing person’s location anywhere in the world on a map, using their DNA and international GPS technology, so he says.
This might sound ridiculous to you, but today Krugel is featured in a completely serious news story in the Observer newspaper about the hunt for Madeleine McCann, where Read the rest of this entry »
Lots of people have emailed in to say that the Observer’s spectacularly misleading MMR story has been removed from the archive and is no longer available online.
For obvious reasons of propriety I have studiously avoided having an inside track on anything to do with this piece from the beginning, so I have no idea what is going on here.
From the comments:
A clue about the removal of the Observer piece?
“A paragraph regarding concern about MMR overseas, extracted from a piece in the Observer now deleted from the website due to concerns about its accuracy, has been removed from this article until the information can be verified”
They still don’t seem to understand the problems with the one in 58 figure, and they still don’t seem to be able to understand the report they keep going on about (but won’t let anyone see because they think their scientific evidence is top secret), and they are still covering up their mistakes. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been told by Dr Fiona Scott that the main news editor of the Observer phoned her today, and she has been promised that there will be a large article in tomorrow’s Observer [EDIT it's up now, here] reproducing in full and unedited the comments that she ended up posting, in desperation, in the commentisefree thread beneath their previous and rather incomprehensible non-retraction. In those, she explained that they had repeatedly misrepresented her views, and had consistently failed even to ask her what they were, despite her protesting. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s my piece from the British Medical Journal, or at least the last version I saw of it.
Medicine and the media
doctor and writer, London,
Guardian and BMJ columnist
A UK newspaper has once again linked autism with MMR and sparked a spate of media scaremongering. But the original story was wrong on every count, writes Ben Goldacre
It was Read the rest of this entry »
Wednesday July 18, 2007
Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media. Just one week before his GMC hearing, yet another factless “MMR causes autism” news story appeared: and even though it ran on the front page of our very own Observer, I am dismantling it on this page. We’re all grown-ups around here. Read the rest of this entry »
Thank you for your emails, I am not unwell, nor have I died “in a strange sexual experiment that went horribly wrong”.
As people suspected I was hoping to write about the Observer’s astonishing front page story on MMR, in fact I was hoping to do it for the comment pages last weds, but then there was a problem, and then again in the column, but again there was a problem.
I have to say the Guardian have been very positive about the idea of me doing it “in principle”, I am a fan, I don’t feel particularly stifled, and with any other newspaper group it wouldn’t even be an option, so there you go, what a cracking institution, no melodrama, and hopefully there’ll be more joy this week.