Journalistic misinterpretation: The case of Melamed’s study (Lavigne, 2009)

Chris Lavigne has written again another Escapist article on the follies of journalistic misinterpretation of academic research. This time, he presented a case on how an article from Pediatrics has been distorted and why it matters. His article is supporting evidence in one of his earlier article. Please read his article before continuing.

This particular portion of the article drew my attention:

The flawed coverage points out two troubling problems with new media: 1) Highly specialized websites don’t provide the kind of general information that traditional media does, and 2) The speed and volume of online content production often means sources are not properly verified.

Both points are relevant in my position as a research blogger. As the title of my blog indicate, I usually report psychological studies on video games because my major is psychology which gives some knowledge in evaluating research in that field. I don’t feel confident at all in evaluating studies outside my field (e.g. medicine or psychiatry), sometimes I don’t understand  half of the content.

His second point hits dead-on. Whenever, video game blogs or website writes about a research study, that I haven’t read or don’t know about, I often drop everything to get my hands on the article, speed read it and write my post as soon as possible. Although, I have the original source with me, the chances of misreading it can be high when I’m pressured to post as quickly as possible and possibly influenced by the original poster of said study (often gamepolitics). Furthermore, I believe a self-imposed belief might be a factor in some of my speedy posts: “if I don’t post soon enough, readers’ attention would be drawn away to something and carry whatever knowledge and opinion they have about this study.” or something like.

Aside from the studies mentioned in the news, I write my blog posts during my spare time. I am a (hopeful) social scientist who likes to study video games and a gamer. However, there are times when I reflected on the weight of reviewing serious works by professionals and have the public read about them through my words. There are recurring questions that crossed my mind: “Did my post contain excessive biases?”, “Am I too harsh or too lenient in my review?”, “Have I sufficiently outlined the authors’ original intent?”, “Did I miss some important points?”, “What if I said something wrong?” and “Is what I am doing a good thing?” A few pointers on how to improve my postings would be nice.



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