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Inaccuracy in reporting astronomy and science
As old as Voyage...
post Jan 8 2007, 07:15 PM
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I have just watched the BBC's report on the newly created 3D map of dark matter using Hubble data; and it made my heart sink.

I applaud the BBC for giving airtime to such discoveries, but for such a respected organisation their research was awful.

It's no wonder the vast majority of people are either bewildered or disinterested the the universe as a whole when the facts they are given are completely wrong.

It's a shame that tonight 60 million or so people in the UK and many other people around the world were told Hubble shone a beam of light out into the depths of the universe and studied how it was bent by the gravity of dark matter billions of light years away!

And this was a report from the BBCs science correspondant!

I remain downhearted that perhaps the most important story of the week was reported in such a shoddy manner.

Does anyone else feel space is being let down by TV coverage?


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Ames
post Jan 8 2007, 09:09 PM
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Yes I do! Don't get me started... mad.gif

Only programs worth watching are the xmas lectures and The Sky at Night - just caught up with the 650th edition - Fab!

Nick
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post Jan 8 2007, 10:37 PM
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I saw that report too, without a doubt the worst piece of journalism i've ever seen. Also, I think he said Hubble "fired a beam of light" LOL
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Stu
post Jan 8 2007, 10:51 PM
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Absolutely appalling and - after yesterday's insulting scheduling of the 650th edition of THE SKY AT NIGHT at 01.55, another sign of BBC TV's disgraceful "dumbing down" of its science content. I was in another room so only heard the "fired a beam of light" line in the background, and was sure I'd misheard, but had it confirmed at my astronomical society's meeting tonight.

COME ON!!!! It's not rocket science... well okay, it is, kind of... but any 9 yr old space mad kid knows that Hubble COLLECTS light, not fires it out of its end like some ***** James Bond villain's laser cannon.

I'm literally baffled how a so-called "science correspondent" could get the story so totally wrong. But then again, this is the same broadcasting company that had Jonathan Cainer on a HORIZON talking about Pluto - the same Jonathan Cainer who wrote in his column today about how Comet McNaught is "a portent" and WILL shine "brighter than anything you've ever seen in the sky before..."

Unbelievable.

mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif


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Bob Shaw
post Jan 8 2007, 11:10 PM
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The thing that worries me is that there must be many things reported by the media which I might accept, but which are just as badly mangled as those subjects about which I know something. Whether through sheer laziness, inertia, or their own agendas, I don't even trust the 'quality' media any more. I used to work for a TV and newspaper group, and I have to say that my illusions were shattered very early on.

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, HRH The Queen Mother *was* a reptiloid alien. Well, I can certainly attest to the fact that the picture desk guys always had to paint her teeth a different colour before publication - they really were quite, er, green...

One of the joys of the WWW is that at least we have somewhere like UMSF; as for the general space policy issues, well...


Bob Shaw


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post Jan 8 2007, 11:49 PM
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Quite a contrast the BBC online News report about it.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6235751.stm

The problem is News networks employ a "science correspondent".... who must cover every aspect of science, which is impossible to do properly. And clearly this one knew absolutely nothing about astronomy/space science.
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ynyralmaen
post Jan 9 2007, 12:01 AM
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QUOTE (Stu @ Jan 8 2007, 11:51 PM) *
Unbelievable.

mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif


I just viewed the report myself. A link is at the top right of this page:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6235751.stm

Incredible. If it was a live broadcast, then I'd have put it down to a slip-up... but an edited piece which surely must have been reviewed when it was written and put together... Argh!
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tedstryk
post Jan 9 2007, 01:39 AM
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QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Jan 8 2007, 11:10 PM) *
The thing that worries me is that there must be many things reported by the media which I might accept, but which are just as badly mangled as those subjects about which I know something. W


I feel the same way. And not just because of space exploration. Whenever I see a local story covered that involves events I witnessed, or, occasionally, when things I have been involved in have been on the news, it is shocking how wrong reporters get it. I have reached a point in which I don't accept information from television news until I have verified it elsewhere.

The problem, I feel, comes from the fact that news reporters are, by and large, communications majors. In other words, they have been taught how to put together a story that will draw in readers, but they may have no background (and often don't) in the subject they are talking about.

I realized how pathetic the media situation in America has gotten while speaking to a friend of mine, who works for our local NBC affiliate.. She is trained in meteorology, as well as communications. Here in the Knoxville, Tennessee area, we live in a valley, between the Cumberland Plateau and the Smoky Mountains. She was trying to explain why we have had warmer air here in Knoxville than these two regions. She nearly lost her job for using the words "topography" and "altitude." According to NBC management, this was "too sophisticated" for ordinary viewers. This left me speechless.


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nprev
post Jan 9 2007, 01:48 AM
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Wow. blink.gif I have to say that as an American I'm probably even more appalled when hearing this. The BBC is considered the gold standard of English-language broadcast journalism by many of us (we're pretty accustomed to extreme scientific ignorance in our own media rolleyes.gif ) Well, there goes another fond illusion...


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climber
post Jan 9 2007, 02:21 AM
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QUOTE (nprev @ Jan 9 2007, 02:48 AM) *
Wow. blink.gif I have to say that as an American I'm probably even more appalled when hearing this. The BBC is considered the gold standard of English-language broadcast journalism by many of us (we're pretty accustomed to extreme scientific ignorance in our own media rolleyes.gif ) Well, there goes another fond illusion...


We've got the same feeling in France too and I stongly back Bob and Ted when they say that, as I see how bad they report on what I know, it has to be the same for all subjects.
I just finish "Moondust" which is about how the Moonwalkers "felt down" to Earth and all the meaning of the Apollo program (highly recommendable). To give an exemple of how bad the general puublic understand "space" there is an exemple of somebody telling Denis Tito after he completed his flight to the ISS : so, you went to the Moon?!!!
I can hardly stand such ignorence.
I'll never thank Doug enough to have created UMSF. smile.gif


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Tesheiner
post Jan 9 2007, 09:48 AM
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QUOTE (climber @ Jan 9 2007, 03:21 AM) *
We've got the same feeling in France too and I stongly back Bob and Ted when they say that, as I see how bad they report on what I know, it has to be the same for all subjects.


Same here, and I'm pretty much convinced it's worldwide and not limited to TV but general media (read newspapers). When I do the every morning scan thru my bookmarks, I always start by UMSF and space related stuff and finish with the local spanish newspapers. Their coverage of space news is simply s*** and I have the feeling that in case I was on the medical business, for instance, I would say the same about med news coverage.
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ugordan
post Jan 9 2007, 10:07 AM
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QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Jan 9 2007, 12:10 AM) *
The thing that worries me is that there must be many things reported by the media which I might accept, but which are just as badly mangled as those subjects about which I know something. Whether through sheer laziness, inertia, or their own agendas, I don't even trust the 'quality' media any more. I used to work for a TV and newspaper group, and I have to say that my illusions were shattered very early on.

Hehe Bob. You sound just like me a while ago. I don't think there's anything we can do about it, however. Realistically, we are the minority here...


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post Jan 9 2007, 10:30 AM
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It's not just the news that are incorrect and dumbed down. You see it everyday business. I work as a web designer and with most clients it is difficult to explain some concepts... like server space! It's like someone buying a car and not wanting to know that it as a tank.
I think that this type of thinking is one of the root problems in todays world. Although we live in a technological society were knowledge means power, most people prefer to know as little as possible... Media just adapts to the market :-(


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TheChemist
post Jan 9 2007, 12:59 PM
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My latest Sunday newspaper included as a gift a Discovery channel VCD documentary about colonizing Mars (of all things !).
Although it was supposed to be © 2005, I soon realized it was much much older, since it talked about plans to send Pathfinder to Mars !
It also mentioned that Cassini would reach Saturn at 2014, and how wonderful it would be that we would have something landing on Titan at the time biggrin.gif

(This is as far as I was able to watch, at this point my wife suggested that I should either stop yelling or stop watching smile.gif )

This was a documentary that reached about 100,000 homes last Sunday mad.gif
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ngunn
post Jan 9 2007, 01:32 PM
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Yes I saw that ridiculous dark matter report on BBC news as well. Has anybody contacted the BBC about it? I've noticed this kind of thing before when they make a brave effort to report a breaking scientific news story. Thery're usually much better when they've had time to digest the information and produce a properly researched documentary. It seems to be within the news team itself that the necessary science background is decidedly patchy. I wonder if anyone in news management actually comprehends how bad the howlers sometimes are?
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