Monday, July 30, 2007

Still no lake beneath Darfur

As Chevy Chase would say, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

In case you missed it, there is no miracle lake lying under the sands of Sudan. Unintentional or not, the development of the lake story is like a case study in Spin 101.

First, a (presumably unintentional) misleading press release. Second, some seriously sloppy media coverage. As the Columbia Journalism Review puts it "no reporter stopped to ask, is there water in the lake?" Third, the initial story finally gets the deserved, well-researched debunking in Nature, but it is too late, it is last week's news already. The result: the real story receives virtually no media attention.

I'm surprised the science blogosphere hasn't been screaming more about this. Wonder how all those scientific mistruths, like the crazy arguments used by climate change 'skeptics', entered the public conscience? Here you go. Ancient Lake Darfur, Exhibit A.

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