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Poor journalism has many victims

I use 'journalism' in the broadest sense (see the quote from Wikipedia on the right) to include radio, television and Internet commenting and reporting.

In the following I recount just one example of how lazy, unthinking and sensation-seeking journalists:
  1. Caused harm to many people by spreading a communicated disease;
  2. Slowed the development of a major and harmless form of renewable energy and thereby:
  3. And caused particular harm to a well-meaning but mistaken woman by encouraging her to continue spreading a fallacy.

This page was written 2018/10/03, last edited 2021/01/13
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
 


The Wikipedia page on Journalism starts:

"Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on current events based on facts and supported with proof or evidence. The word journalism applies to the occupation, as well as citizen journalists who gather and publish information based on facts and supported with proof or evidence. Journalistic media include print, television, radio, Internet, and, in the past, newsreels."

Note the inclusion in the definition of the need for journalism to be "based on facts and supported with proof or evidence".

In many cases journalists in Australia have chosen to report nonsensical claims totally lacking in supporting evidence in what seems to have been a misguided aim of providing 'balance' in regard to the development of wind power in particular.

This page briefly discusses the impact of poor journalistic practice on the delusion of 'wind turbine syndrome' that largely ran it's course between 2010 and 2014 in some English speaking parts of the world and how it was largely spread, if not created by unthinking and sometimes sensation-seeking journalists.

 

When is 'balance' just plain foolishness?

The period when the nonsense of 'wind turbine syndrome' ran its course, roughly 2010 to 2014, seemed to coincide with a period when journalists, particularly radio journalists, tried to find a dissenting voice to give 'balance' to any story about a subject that was in any way controversial.

The problem was that they seemed not to bother whether the person providing the 'balance' was talking sense or nonsense.

In relation to wind power the dissenting voice was often that of Sarah Laurie, a one-time medical doctor who was the Australian spokesperson for the delusion that wind farms made people sick. Of course there was never any convincing evidence that wind turbines adversely impacted anyone's health.

Part of the problem was a naïve and unthinking desire among journalists to 'give balance' to a news item by seeking an opposing view, even when that opposing view was foolish and completely lacking in credibility and any basis in sound evidence.

Another part of the problem was that at least some journalists aimed to give a story maximum impact by making it controversial; a claim that 'this may impact your health' can be relied on to get people's attention.

Thirdly were the journalists like Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and Graham Lloyd who make a living out of spreading any lies that they feel might advance their careers.

The result was that many people were caused to believe that:

  • If a wind farm was going to be built near them they risked illness;
  • If they lived near a wind farm and had any unpleasant symptoms the wind turbines were to blame.
Consequently causing unjustified opposition to wind power, a slowing in the take-up of wind power, and a slowing of action on reducing greenhouse emissions.

Perhaps the greatest single victim of the journalists was a well-meaning but mistaken woman, Sarah Laurie, who was encouraged to go on spreading the unfounded belief in 'wind turbine syndrome'.



A small part of a small Australian wind farm
A wind farm
Poor journalism has done great harm to the development of the Australian wind power industry and that has resulted in delays in replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.


It's not good enough for a journalist to say "I was just reporting what he said"

Acoustician and self-styled expert on wind turbine noise Steven Cooper, who also calls himself Doctor Noise (while not holding a doctorate in anything) made some absurd statements about wind turbines and health at a hearing on a proposed energy park in October 2018.

It happens. Anti-wind farm people are notoriously dishonest (while those who oppose coal mining are mostly honest, I have discussed this phenomenon elsewhere on this site). But in this age of Donald Trump and "alternative facts" people believe what they choose to believe. If a journalist publishes lies like those of Steven Cooper, without any comment on their veracity or otherwise, people who don't like wind turbines are likely to believe it.

As discussed above, this sort of journalism has caused enormous harm. A journalist has the right to print what people say, but they also have a responsibility to do some research when those statements are obviously questionable. Journalists have a responsibility to print the truth.






Related pages

Australia's energy future will be very different to the past reliance on fossil fuels

Connie Bonaros, member of the SA Legislative Council; misrepresentation of the contents of a World Health Organisation report

End of coal: coal is a poor investment and a dying industry

Ethics

A Green or a Black future?

Greenhouse/climate change

Killer coal

Sarah Laurie, a phenomenon created and encouraged by irresponsible journalists

Pierpont-Laurie Syndrome: a communicated disease (once called 'wind turbine syndrome')

Steven Cooper, absurd statements reported

Why support wind power?

Wind power in Australia

Wind power problems, alleged problems and objections

Wind turbines and health

Wind turbines save lives