We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Editorial Narratives in Science Journalism

30th December 2017

Read it.

I’ll make a first brush attempt a working definition:

Editorial Narrative:  A mandated set of guidelines for the overriding storyline for any news item concerning a specified topic, including required statements, conclusions and intentional slanting towards a particular preferred viewpoint. A statement from the Editors of “How this topic is to be presented.”

Celia Dugger thus establishes an Editorial Narrative for the series, and for all health-related journalism at the NY Times, along the lines of;

“The processed food, soda and fast food industries’ increasing focus on markets in the developing world is causing the rise in obesity rates and weight-related illnesses.” 

This is not a rare opinion — it is one of the mainstay talking points of anti-corporatists of all stripes.  It just doesn’t happen to be supported by any Science — a point which even Dugger at the NY Times admits.    It is just an opinion and it is based on simplistic time-coincident correlation.

When a story — a bit of news, a new journal paper — doesn’t fit the narrative required or desired by the Editors — then there is a problem.  If the news is truly Big News and Important — then the journalist has to do his/her best to report it and somehow slip in enough of his/her editor’s narrative to get it accepted and published.  We see this a lot in climate stories where the article goes along well enough, reporting some new findings, and then, out of nowhere, comes a line like “Of course, this new study does nothing to cast any doubt about the overwhelming evidence for human-induced climate change which is currently threatening the very existence of our planet.”

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