In an Indepedendent article arguing that science journalism “standards are pretty high”, Jeremy Laurance discusses Goldacre’s critique of Denis Campbell’s recent Observer piece on DHA and children’s concentration. Laurance describes a trial which
showed that the fish oil “enhanced the function of those brain regions that are involved in paying attention”, as revealed by a brain scanner.
However, as Goldacre noted
It wasn’t a study of fish oil…but of omega-3 fatty acids derived from algae
Laurance argues that
while raging rightly at the scientific illiteracy of the media, [Goldacre] might reflect when naming young, eager reporters starting out on their careers that most don’t enjoy, as he does, the luxury of time [and] bloggers willing and able to do his spadework for him (one pointed out the flaws in Campbell’s report on The Guardian website five days before Goldacre’s column appeared)
Laurance might reflect that fact-checking does not necessarily take that long: this post, for example, has taken me under 20 minutes from seeing the link to Laurance’s column to typing the last word of this post. If media science coverage from experienced, professional journalists is so poor that an amateur with a quarter of an hour to kill before heading to bed can highlight clear errors, there certainly is a real need for reflection.