From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).
Junk Journalism – Date: 04/10/05
At the BBC News Magazine site this article has the headline Is Junk Food A Myth based – it seems on ‘A controversial new book’ and requests comments. My comments are reprinted below, in case they don’t appear on the BBC site.
This article seems to be more a case of Junk Journalism rather than any serious investigation into the story. Yet again, we have someone with – unsurprisingly – ‘A controversial new book’ to promote who – in fact – creates that very controversy in order to generate publicity for that book.
As several people have already pointed out in other comments, e.g. Jack:
Saying that there is no such thing as junk food only a junk diet is like saying there is no such thing as taking a single step only walking a mile.
Marks is doing little more than semantic juggling with the concepts of ‘junk food’ and ‘junk diet’ and not really saying anything new, or ‘controversial’.
This is a good example of Junk Journalism, journalism by regurgitation of the press release. Lazy journalism that sees the magic word ‘controversial’ and suddenly all journalistic judgement flies out of the window.
This journalistic laziness is so often these days used by people wanting, or needing, to get media attention for their latest product, wheeze or scheme. Creating an artificial ‘debate’, ‘controversy’, ‘argument’ or whatever sees to be a sure way of getting media attention, whether justified or – more often – not.
Journalist – and their editors – must break free of this lazy junk journalism and actually investigate whether these claims – usually from ‘mavericks’ (another journalistic buzzword) have any merit, rather than just regurgitating all the PR that is fed to them.
This is not a trivial or insignificant matter. We saw during the MMR ‘controversy’ the damage that lazy junk journalism can do. Journalists should reject the notion that ‘balance’ matters more than truth or accuracy in reporting.