Media reporting and experts

We all have our political opinions but I have tried very hard to stay away from them on this blog, and this post is no exception. Nevertheless, I’m about to wander off the science and towards the media, so it’s bound to be somewhat opinionated – please forgive me. I’ll make one exception on the politics and that’s to say Trump’s Tweet about hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, was nothing short of reckless. On second thoughts, that’s not a political opinion, that’s just fact…. I move on.

I was contacted by a news agency for an interview on when a covid-19 vaccine might appear. The journalist had seen my blog post which prompted them to email me. I declined because this isn’t my area of expertise (indeed, I had a lot of help with that post). It occurred to me afterwards that I could have done the interview and spouted a lot of nonsense while still sounding well informed. (I worked with business development over many years and so I’m well practiced… and I withdraw that remark immediately). I’m not making any accusations here, this journalist, who I don’t know, could have been top-notch (they didn’t have any scientific background) but there is nevertheless a possibility they could have gone to press with a load of tosh (I am an expert in tosh). Yes, they could have fact checked anything I said, but I have to say journalists in general are not exactly famous for doing so. I’m not deriding all journalist because some of them are very good (BBC’s Pallab Ghosh for example) but it illustrates how easily we can get a false perspective of the truth, even from what otherwise might seem authentic sources.

I’ve seen a marked shift in TV news reporting recently. The UK has just left the European Union and news reporting was flooded with politicians, celebrities and vox pops. The few experts I saw, economists, constitutional lawyers, trade experts etc, were far and few between. But now, TV news on all channels (here in the UK anyway) are regularly interviewing eminent epidemiologists, virologists, infectious disease experts and senior members of the World Health Organisation. It may just be me, but there seems to be a real sea-change. Why I wonder? I will not speculate because I’m not an expert (!) but long may it continue in all walks of life – virus, the economy and everything else besides.

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