It's stories like the "Collapsing Colony Disorder" thing with bees that make me wonder about the supposedly "professional" media. I ran across this column today by an expert in the field of entomology, and it sounds like this phenomenon isn't as worrying as it's been played up - it's not new, either. It's when I got to this paragraph that I realized I had run across another batch of endless hype:
Sixth, it's never a good idea to trust what the media are telling you. At least once in the present case the media got something completely wrong and created a huge mess: The story about cell phones was basically a misrepresentation of what one pair of reporters wrote about a study that they misinterpreted. In a nutshell, the original research didn't involve cell phones, and the researchers never said their research was related to honey bee colony die-offs. Even details like the alleged Einstein quote are dubious. No one has yet found proof that Einstein said anything about bees dying off the earliest documented appearance of the "quote" is 1994 and, yes, Albert was dead at the time.
This goes back to something I've said before - whenever mainstream media reports on a field I know something about, the errors are usually large and obvious. This makes me wonder about the fields I know little or nothing about, and leads me to believe that most reporters don't even qualify as generalists. The exceptions tend to be in narrow fields where you get truly passionate people - sports and movie/theater reviews, for instance.
What's happening with the web right now is that the minimal generalists of the media are being disintermediated as our sole sources of information - we can now hear from actual experts who can give us their opinions without "joe reporter" as the middle man. For obvious reasons, reporters dislike this trend, but that's the way it is. The carnage that's happening in the US newspaper business is the leading edge of that change-over, and it can't happen soon enough as far as I'm concerned.