science journalism

"Lying" is considered one of those words civilized people should never say. That's why politicians never use it. Instead, their opponents are "misinformed" or "misspeaking" or "using alternative facts." 

Well, the time for civility is over. Journalist -- if we can actually call him that -- Danny Hakim is lying to you. And it's not his first rodeo, either. He's built quite a track record for himself at the New York Times, publishing distorted information about GMOs and comparing agricultural pesticides to "Nazi-made sarin gas." 

Now, Mr. Hakim has written an...

A common question I hear again and again is, "How do I know if a news story is fake?" There is no easy answer1. It helps to be well informed, and it requires a conscious suspension of credulity combined with a gut instinct honed over years of experience. 

If journalism as a whole is bad (and it is), science journalism is even worse. Not only is it susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it is uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism. Every week, it seems, an everyday food is either going to cure cancer or kill us all. 

One thing experience has taught us is that some news outlets are better than others. Some journalists really do care about reporting the news as it is rather than the way they would like...

After more than six years in science journalism, I have reached two very disturbing conclusions about the craft.

First, too many science journalists don't actually possess a well-rounded knowledge of science. In many cases, regular reporters are asked to cover complex science and health stories. What we end up with is entirely predictable: Articles that are nothing more than rehashed press releases, topped with click-bait headlines based on exaggerations and misunderstandings of the original research. That's how a nonsensical story like Nutella causing cancer goes...

Back when I was editor of RealClearScience, Slate's science page was a daily must-read. Now, I never read it because the quality of its reportage has fallen dramatically and because I grew tired of Phil Plait deceiving readers about science policy and posting selfies with his goat.

There are plenty of other reasons to avoid Slate. Perhaps the best is that the site is enamored with publishing contrarian news articles. Their formula is time-tested: (1) Take a statement that is obviously stupid; (2) Write a headline vigorously...

Here at ACSH, we cover nearly every topic under the sun related to biomedicine, chemistry, health, epidemiology, and sports science.

We are sometimes surprised to learn which articles are most popular with our readers. This year, our work on herpes vaccines resonated across the globe. In fact, one of them was the most popular article we wrote all year! (Kudos to Dr. Josh Bloom.)

So, in case you missed them, here are the ten most popular articles we wrote in 2016 (yes, including two on herpes):

#1. A Vaccine For Herpes Erupts In The News

#2. Like Beef, Insects Are A Good...

Why America's supposed newspaper of record has become a voice for anti-biotechnology food activists remains a profound mystery. The only plausible explanation is that this is calculated; the New York Times must be tailoring its reportage to its customers, who consist mostly of well-to-do, organic-food-eating elites. Evidence plays little to no role in the paper's coverage of controversial scientific issues.

Michael Pollan serves as a case-in-point. In one of his most recent articles, he bashes modern agriculture and casually libels pro-biotech organizations (like ACSH) with whom he disagrees. Few journalists and even fewer...

I have been a long-time reader of Pacific Standard (once called Miller-McCune), a publication that tries to be the West Coast equivalent of The Atlantic. That is a fine mission because, as a Seattleite, I am keenly aware that there aren't many West Coast media outlets that capture the attention of the rest of the nation. 

When I was still editor of RealClearScience (RCS), I frequently linked to Pacific Standard's content, particularly articles produced by Tom Jacobs, who was and continues to be a fine social science writer. However, in recent months, the magazine as a whole has become nearly unreadable. As its political cheerleading becomes more and more blatant, its standards for science journalism have fallen. I don't think that is...

The consequences of Brexit will include the collapse of science, the destruction of the environment, and uncontrollable pillow consumption. (Credit: Shutterstock) The consequences of Brexit will include the collapse of science, the destruction of the environment, and uncontrollable pillow consumption. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Other than the refusal to compromise, the most obnoxious trend in politics today is the belief that if any particular candidate loses, the world/country/economy/culture is...

We are terrible corporate shills. (Credit: Shutterstock) We are terrible corporate shills. (Credit: Shutterstock)

The most frustrating part of being a scientist or science journalist is trying to convince people who have already made up their minds that they have come to the wrong conclusion. Even when presented with data that definitively demonstrates the error in their logic, most people double down, while very few appear willing to...

The American Council on Science and Health has just launched a new page on Pinterest. (Please follow us!) As part of our mission to serve as trusted guides on complex science and health issues, we felt that it was imperative for us to have a visible and active presence on one of the world's most popular social media sites.

And wow, do we have our work cut out for us.

After just a few minutes on Pinterest, it was crystal clear that the site served as a gigantic sewer pipe for the worst sort of anti-science propaganda and paranoia that the Internet can vomit up.

Take vaccines, for instance. When I searched for "vaccines," these were the top five posts:

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