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Friday, April 22, 2005

Ending the propagation of myths in the media

A couple of days ago I was browsing the BBC news site when I came across this article about Dan Brown winning an award.
Now I liked the Da Vinci code. I liked Angels and Demons better. I do have some issues with the fact that things that are not fact are presented as such with the statement at the start of the novel. Overall though, it was an entertaining pulp-fiction read; a real page turner, if you will.
However, I was a bit annoyed when I read the BBC news report.
'Why?'
I hear you cry. I shall tell you.

Originally the first sentence said something like:

Bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, derided by critics and condemned by the Catholic Church, has won best book at the British Book Awards.

I point out that I am working from memory here but it certainly made a statement to the effect that the Church had made some sort of official attack on the book. This annoyed me a lot since it is a myth, and one I have heard propagated a lot. In actual fact the Church has declined to comment and has made no official position known on the book (that I am aware off and at time of writing the article) . A leading cardinal expressed a personal opinion, and made it clear that it was such; this is not the same thing as the Church holding an opinion.

Consequently I emailed the BBC through their comment site and lo and behold, just a day or so later the article was changed. Now I don't know how many more people complained but whatever, I claim the victory ;-)

Bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, derided by critics and the subject of furious religious debate, has won best book at the British Book Awards.

Seriously, if the media make a mistake, email them and ask them to change it, they might just do it. Though of course for some bloggers it would be more satisfying to try to get the journalist fired (ooh, snarky!)

On a similar topic, Shinobi at Lies and Statistics has a really cool post looking at how it is dangerous to criticism science based upon the interpretation of that science made by the media. Their propensity for turning estimations into Facts! Check it out.

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