You'd think "professional" writers would understand that words have meanings, and they matter. Numerous examples of this come up in the science blogs I read, and the sheer incompetence of people who get paid for writing has long ceased to surprise me. Yet another issue with science journalism was described in Swans on Tea earlier:
What is so hard about these caveats and disclaimers scientists take for granted, and come up over and over again, when discussing science results? Is the collective journalistic memory so short that scientists (or their lawyers) have to start reading a statement before they ever make a comment?I think this is a fine idea. This statement should be printed up on cards, and when talking to journalists, hand them a copy along with your business card.
Please understand that the following result is preliminary and should not be taken as the final word. For anyone unfamiliar with the field, an effort must be made on the reader’s part to see where this fits in with the prevailing models of the day. There is a chance that it could be wrong or have only limited applicability to broader problems being investigated by other research teams. Further investigation may confirm our findings, or show that our results were anomalous or contained errors.
Scientists already know this. Journalist should know this.