Thursday, 5 March 2009

Internet v Legitimate Media is one of my favourite websites. If you haven't come across it yet, it takes various rumours, urband legends and chain-email claims and tries to validate those that are authentic, or debunk those that are not. Here's an example about the evils of aspartame.

Shows you shouldn't trust anything you read on emails or the Internet. Which is why having legitimate journalists ferreting out the truth about things is so important and why newspapers and broadcast media are so much more reliable if you want the straight facts.

Or not.

Second time in two postings that I've referenced Charles Stross - I'm really getting lazy.

The link, for those even lazier than me who can't be bothered to click on it, is about a recent widely reported story about the cancer-inducing effects of tiny amounts of alcohol on women. At the time it sounded a little screwy to me and Mr Stross, who has bothered to do a little bit more research than I could, has highlighted several things wrong with the story. Which the reporters couldn't be bothered to check.

Of course if they had then they wouldn't have had the scare-mongering headlines they could use to sell their papers.

There are a couple of books that deal with this misreporting - Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner covers the misuse of statistics, usually caused by a lack of understanding about what they're actually telling you (or not as the case may be). My Trade by Andrew Marr looks mostly at newspaper journalism and gives a journalist/editor's view on the background behind the stories.

And the lesson in all of this is: you can't trust anyone to tell you the truth. You have to find it yourself.

I should have gone into writing greetings cards.

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