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How the media influences us

In this article we compare a study on the health impact of eating red and processed meat with how it was reported.
© EIT Food

In the previous Step you looked at two contradictory headlines reporting on the risk of eating red and processed meat on health, and reflected on how our biases might influence our perception of the risk. In this Step you’ll look at these newspaper reports in further detail to explore some of ways in which you might also be influenced by how these articles are written and presented.

‘Is red meat back on the menu?’ BBC News questioned, while the Mail Online reported that ‘Scientists say official advice on eating less beef, pork and lamb is based on bad evidence.’ Extensive media sources carried similar headlines on the ‘controversial study’ that suggests people don’t need to limit red and processed meat as per current recommendations.

headline reads: VEAL-Y GOOD Anti-vegan Piers Morgan rejoices as it’s revealed meat ‘doesn’t cause cancer’

The Sun online. October 2019.

headline reads: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’: Scientists raise concerns over study claiming red meat and bacon’s link to cancer ‘has no evidence’ and underneath: ‘These authors I think are wrong about absolutely everything,’ doctor says

The Independent. 30 September 2019.

Journalists (and the news organisation they work for) use different techniques to influence the conclusions you draw about a scientific study. These could include:

  • the reputation of the newspaper

  • the type of language used (informal or scientific?)

  • the use of experts to add credibility

  • the use of celebrities to add weight to arguments

  • the structure of the article – what message are you left with?

  • the pictures used to illustrate the article.

If you compare these reports, you’ll notice a number of different ways in which each newspaper has reported on and influenced the conclusion you draw about the same scientific study.

Task

Choose one further news article about the same scientific study (they’re listed in the ‘See also’ section below) and make a list of the techniques that have been used to influence your conclusions.

You may be able to think of many additional techniques to the ones listed above. Please share these in the discussion below and read what other Learners have suggested. You can ‘like’ their comments or respectfully reply if you disagree.

Are you left with questions about how good red and processed meat is for you? If so, you are not alone! In the next section, we’ll be looking at the science behind these headlines.

© EIT Food
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Food and Nutrition: The Truth Behind Food Headlines

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