Do scientists maintain a public silence over major issues for fear of the media? I argue that the threat is more apparent than real, and while the relationship can be stressful, scientists and journalists have much in common in searching for the truth. TV treatment of complex scientific topics is generally unsatisfactory, being far too brief. In the print media, the text usually gives an accurate and responsible treatment of what is provided by the scientists, but accompanying headlines frequently do not - often they are sensational, inaccurate and, most likely, all that the public remembers. Ultimately it is the scientists, medical professionals, etc., who are responsible for what appears in the media, and it is essential for them to give appropriate, accurate information, and back-ground briefing. Journalists are prepared to work material over to get it right. Novel findings, which have not been through the process of scientific peer review, should be presented with appropriate qualifications and reservations; hypothesis should not be presented as fact. I give a background of flying-fox biology by which to judge three cautionary case histories of press treatment of public health issues involving the transmission, or possibility of transmission, of serious viral diseases by these large bats. Such issues require informed public discussion. It is the joint responsibility of science/medical professionals and journalists to ensure that such discussion occurs.
On the transmssion of bat diseases by the media - a view from the trenches
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Len Martin; On the transmssion of bat diseases by the media - a view from the trenches. Australian Zoologist 1 February 2003; 32 (2): 298–315. doi: https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2003.014
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