This is tremendously disappointing.
Not only did Scientific American pick up on the alarmist press release about cochineal from the Center For Science in the Public Interest, it actually added extra taxonomic errors and entomophobia, for good measure!
So, here’s the story so far:
1. CSPI writes an alarmist press release about cochineal, which suggests not only are there insects in your food, but dangerous insects! They call for a ban, and as a bonus make a rather huge taxonomic error with a scarab beetle photo.
2. A New York Times writer picks up on the press release, and uses it in her NYT wellness blog. And repeats the taxonomic mistakes and general tone of OMGBUGZ. She does at least correct the taxonomic error when it’s pointed out, and removes the beetle photo.
3. Scientific American prints the CSPI news release (with offending photo) almost verbatim, and even ADDS several alarmist comments about OMGBUGZ-IN-URFOODS. As a garnish, they called cochineal “beetle juice” and the scale insects “cochineal beetles.”
(I actually stopped looking after those two, because I was just too depressed. God help us if they find out that shellac is sometimes used on apples to make them shiny, or how figs really get pollinated.)
I’ve written before about VNRs–video news releases. An awful lot of what you see on television is PR produced far outside a news studio, and used to feed the 24/7 news cycle. PRwatch produced a report on VNRs in 2006, and some of their criticisms of that practice sound rather familiar:
- “TV stations disguise VNRs as their own reporting.
- TV stations don’t supplement VNR footage or verify VNR claims.”
Now, I occasionally screw up here at the Bug Blog–sometimes I don’t fact-check a story thoroughly before I run with it. However, I’m not Scientific American or the New York Times, and I don’t have a professional news staff!
I’m just a B-list (really, more like G-list) blogger that interrupts her cheerful obsession with insects with occasional cranky ranting. Exhibit A: this post.
If you are part of the media apparatchik, for God’s sake, check your facts! Make a call!
Just because some organization has “science” in the title, that doesn’t mean they are experts.
Clearly, I need to start issuing press releases so that I can have my opinions published uncritically everywhere.