Meta-textual analysis of mainstream science reporting

The Guardian's Martin Robbins does a spot-on bit of media criticism on the standard template for mainstream science reporting, in a piece fittingly entitled, "This is a news website article about a scientific paper."
In the standfirst I will make a fairly obvious pun about the subject matter before posing an inane question I have no intention of really answering: is this an important scientific finding?

In this paragraph I will state the main claim that the research makes, making appropriate use of "scare quotes" to ensure that it's clear that I have no opinion about this research whatsoever.

In this paragraph I will briefly (because no paragraph should be more than one line) state which existing scientific ideas this new research "challenges".

If the research is about a potential cure, or a solution to a problem, this paragraph will describe how it will raise hopes for a group of sufferers or victims.

This paragraph elaborates on the claim, adding weasel-words like "the scientists say" to shift responsibility for establishing the likely truth or accuracy of the research findings on to absolutely anybody else but me, the journalist.

This is a news website article about a scientific paper (via MeFi)


    1. This is the obvious comment about a post about a news website article about a scientific paper.

      And this is the snarky and self-righteous reply questioning your basic understanding of science, your lineage, and possibly your sexuality, depending on how loaded the initial topic was.

  1. This is an ideologically driven rant, based on offense inferred from the outcome of this one study being written about on a news website.

    I can only assume that the author of this article agrees with the people I consider to be evil.

  2. The article he is referencing is just particularly bad. While science journalism is often lacking, this is coming from a particularly low point.

    I mean, where’s the nutgraf? Use of “scientists say” rather than “[specific scientist name/title] said” is not okay. Using vague phrases like “some believe” is unacceptable by the standards of most editors. Even the basic structure is awkward.

    captcha: duencee reasons

  3. This is an extremely long post where I go off on a tangent that no one will read completely. Instead, those who try to read it will wonder why they read comment sections of websites.

    At this point I am making a long-winded explanation of how this vaguely relates to a personal experience. I will also generically blame some political group or person such as Obama, Republicans, or “big” oil/government/media/pharma/et al. After all, this vaguely related incident clearly shows that I am an expert on the subject.

  4. It’s also important to note that the article includes a photo of a pirate triceratops humping a galaxy.

    This is more or less why I don’t read/watch/listen to a lot of news any more. My brain transliterates most articles into this kind of formula.

  5. this is teh marginally coherent and poorly speled and grammarized post by someone who didn’t RTFA but noneteheless feels qualified and compelled to bring religion and/or Hitler into the thread. also while gratuitously insulting all you stupid fuckwits in your parents basements who dont agree with me.

  6. Great article… Most science reporting is awful and often (but, not always) does a disservice to the work or thought behind the research. Hopefully is little piece of satire is able to incite some journalistic change..

  7. i feel uncommonly compelled to add unicorns , kittehs , and won’t SOMEone Please think about the un-conceived children ? to this collection of colloquial comments . also , daz studio

  8. I just wish “journalists” would provide a link to the paper they are citing, or hell even the name of the paper and journal would be nice. It would be helpful for those of us who are neither illiterate nor innumerate.

    It would also be nice if “journalists” linked to the raw press releases when regurgitating “news”. We can then diff the outputs to detect actual thought.

  9. This post makes a generic comment about how useful or insightful the article is, followed by a borked link back to a completely unrelated commercial site.

    [a href=]Just look at it![/a]

  10. This is the comment that repeats a point raised earlier without new insight because the author has a strong opinion but can’t be bothered to read others’.

  11. This particular comment points out that the research heralds the inevitable takeover of the planet by Skynet.

  12. This comment is not only far too late for the main moment of interest of the community, it mostly exists as a just-allowable-by-the-moderation-policy semi-advert for its author’s own blog post about a news website about a scientific paper, and attempts to defuse potential charges of shameless self-promotion with a combination of self-deprecation, self-reference, and tiresomely long and convoluted sentence structure.

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