Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Long and Proud Tradition

It gets so tedious to tsk-tsk at reporters who write bad articles about paleontology that I've gotten away from doing it here, for the most part. In the early days of writing this blog, I imagined that such posts would be staples. I didn't realize how depressing a topic it could become. Just wander through some of the posts tagged science communication at Archosaur Musings to see Dave Hone's personal trials with sloppy, lazy, misguided journalism.

But it's nothing new. I ran across this popular press account of a fossil discovery in an 1825 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine, which shows that the media's ability to absolutely mangle paleo stories is part of a long, sad tradition.
Various fossil remains, among which are some bones of a gigantic crocodile, and certain traces of the megalosaurus and pleiosaurus, have been found in the sand stone of Tilgate Forest, Sussex, and also those of an enormous animal thought to be the iguadom. The teeth are evidently those of an herbivorous animal of extraordinary size, not less, according to the proportions of the remains, than 60 feet in length; and it is considered to have been an amphibious species of animal.
That should be followed by one huge [sic]. What precisely did the writer and editors expect people to gather from this account? Typos galore, confusingly worded, and vague. Shouldn't the novelty of paleontology as a field of study have warranted more dedication to reporting this? It almost reads like they simply typed up the hastily-written letter of a local farmer and didn't bother checking up on it.

For shame, The Gentleman's Magazine. The gentlemen for whom your periodical is intended to provide entertainment and information have been poorly served.

1 comment:

Trolls get baleted.