One of the things that I both love and detest about modern news in the U.S. is its proclivity for sensationalism. Television weather forecasters can make the most moderate summer day weather (“Well, Bay Area, it’s another slightly overcast day in the mid-70s, so grab your jacket and head outside!”) seem absolutely thrilling. And if Lindsay Lohan wasn’t exciting enough when she was partying around the clock – now she’s sober! What a thrill.
But when it comes to reporting the major findings of scientific studies, particularly those with direct implications for consumer health and safety, I have a problem with journalist sensationalism. Several weeks ago, researchers from Stanford University published an exhaustive, investigative meta-analysis of other researchers’ explorations of the nutrition and safety differences between organic and conventional foods, including produce, grains, dairy, and meat. (Find the article here.)
By the time those findings hit the U.S. news media sensationalist hurricane, however, suddenly newscasters and internet journalists alike had spun the results into edge-of-your-seat terror. “Organic foods are not healthier, as consumers continue to pay top dollar!” The moment I heard that teaser blare from the TV (conveniently, just before the commercial break, followed by “stay tuned!”), I pulled out my laptop and typed “Stanford organic food healthier” into Google scholar. When the commercial break was over, I was already well into the results section of the paper.
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