The year is only a couple of weeks old, but it’s already been a strange one for science news. With a steady flow of coverage on a huge range of complex subjects, it’s easy for things to go wrong, and for journalists to come up with material that doesn’t get the science right. But a few recent cases appear to involve news organizations that have gone out of their way to get a science story wrong. The news industry tends to respond badly to cases where people make up the contents of their stories—witness Jayson Blair and the fake Bush National Guard records. But, so far, the response to the recent science news-related events has been complete indifference.
The most egregious case seems to have happened at the UK’s Daily Mail, which ran an article in the Science and Technology section of its website entitled “The mini ice age starts here.” In it, the author argues that we’re due for decades of global cooling, driven by ocean currents that the article claims produced the last century’s warming—not greenhouse gasses. These facts are ascribed to impeccable scientific sources: the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, and Mojib Latif, a prominent climatologist based in Germany. A substantially similar story, with precisely the same attributions, later appeared on the Fox News site.
There was small problem here, though: Mojib Latif is still alive, and was easy to get a hold of. When contacted, he pointed out that large portions of the report were inaccurate. A prominent climate blogger contacted both Latif and the NSIDC; he quotes Latif as saying, “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.” Referring to “facts” attributed to it by the article, The NSIDC’s director said, “This is completely false. NSIDC has never made such a statement and we were never contacted by anyone from the Daily Mail. “
Read More of John Timmer’s article on ars technica