Experts aren't newsBMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7059.758 (Published 21 September 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:758
- Bernard Dixon
A man with no credentials in seismology forecast an earthquake in the United States. His prediction was wrong, but triggered off 68 different reports in five of the country's major newspapers. Eighteen months earlier the same papers had published only eight stories following an authoritative prediction by the United States Geological Survey. This earthquake did occur—and caused six billion dollars-worth of damage.
The two cases, analysed by Conrad Smith in Public Understanding of Science (1996,5:205), will appeal to all who enjoy deriding the media. Here are several key ingredients for a robust bout of hack bashing. Journalists want pseudoscience rather than genuine science. They prefer the maverick to the …