Pigeon droppings made national news this morning with the headline:
‘Two patients have died after contracting a fungal infection caused by pigeon droppings.’
BBC Scotland then had a longer piece headed:
‘Two patients have dies after falling ill from an infection caused by pigeons.’
Only six sentences later did we hear, quietly inserted, that one patient had died from ‘an unrelated cause’ and that the other’s death was ‘being investigated.’
The headlines are only true in the chronological sense that these patients died some time ‘after’ the infections took place just as the deaths took place ‘after’ many other events in the preceding days.
‘Elderly Glasgow man has died after Prince Phillip’s car crash!’
Note that no official announcement by the hospital was made and the report relied on two perhaps ‘unrelated experts’. We got the BBC’s favourite go-to-guy, ‘Union a boon to science’, long-retired but keen and available, Prof Pennington, and a private contractor who may or may not, have ever been inside the hospital in question.
The Herald and the Scotsman missed it, STV went ‘after’ the same headline story and of course the Sun and the Record had an even worse headline:
Time after time we see this phenomenon, of headlines which are not accurate, but which can have disproportionate effects. Many only absorb headlines and miss the important information often in the full report not prominent there. Journalists know that effect and where there is an agenda, the damage can be done regardless of later qualifying comment.
Once more, must we remind the BBC that they are tax-payer funded and thus have a moral responsibility to their audience, as well as their royal charter requirement, to be informative?
Evidence of why headlines matter more:
Footnote: I’m not by any means recommending the above Steven Pinker’s other ideas!
Well clearly the hospital should be demolished, Independence should never be talked about agin, and the SNP should be sold into slavery.
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So basically it’s ‘same shit , different day’
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I see this evening that our intrepid national broadcaster has upped its game on the ‘doo poo’ saga under the headline:
“Ex-minister calls for hospital pigeon infection inquiry”
Alex Neill has given some opinions which are being put forward to apparently bolster the original attempt at sensationalism.
But, really, what have we here? Two ill people have died in hospital and very alert medical staff investigating the causes of death have found traces of a fairly innocuous microbe which is carried in pigeon droppings. They have established that in one case this microbe was not a contributor to the death. In the other case they are still investigating the matter – as they must as part of their professional duty.
In the mean time they health professionals have installed high grade air filtration systems and relocated potentially vulnerable patients to ensure that the microbes are no longer a threat to peoples’ safety while they search for the possible migration routes taken by the microbes in the first place.
It seems to me that the medical authorities at the infirmary have done and are doing precisely what is required of them. Since there was no large-scale danger to the public from this organism (which is already in the air wherever pigeons are present) there was no need to issue a public warning of health risk.
So, what is this call for an ‘inquiry’ to achieve? I think Brian Powell summed up the hopes of its authors very well in his post above.
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I despair of journalism in Scotland. Does any investigation go on at all either by the press or the TV news people? If those of us who don’t have journalists’ contacts can see the deceit that’s going on, I can only assume journalists can too. Or do editors just take the politicians’ shilling anyway?