A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Friday Media Responses to those Farm Scale Evaluations - from (no stars) to (******)

Today we build on the Thursday reponses to the Farm Scale Evaluations (see post below). The latter were mainly news broadcasts; now, of course, we are dealing with broadsheet newspaper coverage. And the science really does sort the sheep from the goats, rags that are little more than green propaganda from careful, nuanced analysis. The range is surprisingly great, from outstanding to a sheer disgrace. Here is a reminder of the judging criteria:-

I rate each media report according to the following criteria, giving them from no stars( ) to (******):-

a. do they report the significant finding that there was greater variation between the conventional crops than between conventional and GM crops?
b. do they stress that the results are only applicable to the three crops studied?
c. do they stress that the results are only applicable under the regimes of herbicide usage employed?
d. do they stress, like the Royal Society, that each new application of GM crop technology should be looked at on a case-by-case basis, using a rational evidence-based approach?
e. do they stress that the amounts of herbicide used, and when it was applied, were recorded and compared well with current commercial practice for conventional crops, and the industry-recommended guidelines for application to GMHT crops, and that, generally, GMHT crops were found to receive less herbicide, later in the season, than the conventional crops?
f. do they avoid the use of emotive language and quotations, and especially wild generalisations that these tests either totally vindicate GM crops or totally condemn them?

In addition today, because they are more easily comparable than running news broadcasts, the reporting is ranked according to how far the newspapers have clearly spun the science for the emotive hype:

Top: Science most nuanced and least spun for emotive hype

The Daily Telegraph: for once, way ahead of the pack. Nuanced and careful, and largely avoiding hype. Unspun by the absolutely ruthless green lobby. Worth quoting from the opening of its Leader:-

"The results of country-wide trials of GM crops do not show that they are dangerous. All they show is that GM beet and spring rape crops encourage fewer weeds to grow than conventional crops. And, in fact, when it comes to GM maize, more weeds grow than with conventional maize. So, with two out of three of the tested crops, genetic modification seems to do exactly what its fans claim: make healthier crops with greater yields."

(******) Bravo, top marks - and I never thought I would say that of the DT!

The Times: low key reporting. Not on the front page, and only on one page inside; neither leader nor op.ed. Although fairly lacklustre reporting, overall reasonably balanced. At least preferable to the breathless coverage of some newspapers (see below). (***)

The Financial Times: largely in The Times camp of low key comment and reporting, although not quite as balanced. Poor for the FT (especially yesterday's online report). On this issue, the FT is in danger of losing one of its stars (see post of October 9). (**)

The Guardian: out of all proportion: front page, two full inside pages, and leader. Breathless, strangely mixed reporting, with some semblance of balance (much better than The Independent - not difficult!). Overall, however, a classic Guardian exercise in outrageous and gleeful hyping while trying to seem balanced and 'scientific'. Hidden agendas all round, and fails on nearly all criteria. The photographs are pure ecohype. (**)

The Independent: well, what can one say? In a league of its own. Quite appalling - hardly distinguishable from unadulterated green propaganda. Fails on every criterion. A disgrace to science and to so excellent a report. Why my poor site exists. (no stars).

Bottom: Science entirely spun for emotive hype

The coverage in The Independent is why science is in so parlous a state in the UK. And, just think, newspapers accuse the government of spinning - a coal mine calling the kettle black!

And remember, you can vote on which UK broadsheet newspaper carries the most biased environmental reporting in the EnviroSpin Voting Booth - choose the relevant button in the Side Bar opposite.

Time for strong coffee - and I need it. Philip.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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