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Poor journalism has many victims

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, modified 2018/10/19 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke)

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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.

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'.

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

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


A Green or a Black future?

Greenhouse/climate change

Killer coal

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