Whale of a whopper

James Delingpole’s relationship with what is commonly understood by the term “journalism” is not readily apparent.

1. PLOS One publishes a peer-reviewed paper by some of the world’s leading marine biologists with an interest in the effects of underwater noise pollution. The paper tests the idea that naval sonar could have an impact on whale behavior. It makes no mention of wind farms.

2. The Telegraph publishes a story, “Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales” citing the paper, which has the conveniently precise title of “Beaked Whales Respond to Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar.”

4. Delingpole runs with the link, writing that wind farms “KILL WHALES.” A photo of a beach sperm whale adorns his post.

5. One of the paper’s co-authors denies, vigorously, that his research made any link whatsoever between wind farms and whales.

6. The Telegraph removes the story from its website and publishes a correction/retraction.

7. Delingpole adds an update to his post and writes that he is “delighted to put this straight.”

Really? Delighted? Is it perhaps time for the Telegraph to rethink allowing him to write about science? It brings to mind his quote:

“It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers, because I simply don’t have the time, I don’t have the scientific expertise. […] I am an interpreter of interpretations.”

[And yes, I know it’s all about readership and traffic, not about getting the story correct. But what can I say? I’m a dreamer.]

5 Replies to “Whale of a whopper”

  1. And worst of all it now becomes a zombie lie. We’ll be seeing this one pop up in blog comments on offshore windfarms for years to come still. That “Correction” is mind-boggling in it’s disingenuousness.

  2. The Telegraph retracted a story? Now that’s bizarre!

    Seriously, the British tabloids rarely get anything correct, and frankly don’t care. Politics, crime, celebrities, science, it’s all treated as trashy entertainment. I mean, who do you think owns Fox News?

  3. It’s sad and extremely disappointing, but amazingly common. Every time I’ve had personal knowledge about a given news story, the version recounted in news media was inaccurate in some detail, sometimes in a significant way. Now I take every news story with a large grain of salt. If it’s important to me, I follow up on sources as best I can, or at least try to get several independent accounts of the same story.

    And if I find a journalist who is consistently careful with the facts, I know I’ve struck gold!

    Most “news” is for entertainment value only.

  4. Sadly, the Daily Telegraph is a broadsheet and, up to this morning at least, doesn’t belong to the Dirty Digger. It has, however, in recent years, acquired and encouraged commentary writers such as the Despicable Delingpole and a vociferous band of “Comments” writers who are all, as far as one can see, anti-vaxxers, anti-warmists, anti-Europeans and conspiracy theorists (scientists do it for the money and government encourages them to reduce our freedom).
    What’s more, the comments are used to make personal attacks on the young lady who is their (remarkably accurate) science correspondent, calling her, at their most polite, a cut-and-paste sycophant.
    Pity, it used to be a literate and trustworthy paper.

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