Dorothy Bishop – a Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at Oxford University – yesterday awarded the Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation to Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. The yearly prize is awarded using a simple points-based system – three points are awarded for a factual error in the heading, two for any in the subtitle and one for those made in the body of the article. The article, published in October and titled: ‘Just ONE cannabis joint can bring on schizophrenia’ scored an impressive 23 points, with 12 points being awarded for the headline alone – which is why the prize has been awarded to the newspaper’s editor, who is assumed to be ultimately responsible for headlines, rather than the author of the article (Tamara Cohen) who is not.
Professor Bishop cited an excellent deconstruction of the Daily Mail article by the Neurobonkers’ blog (which I heartily recommend that you read as it details in depth just how distorted the article is) and when discussing the research paper on which the Daily Mail article was based, concluded:
Suffice it to say, the academic paper is not about cannabis, smoking or schizophrenia. Rather it is about an artificial compound that is not present in cannabis, which was injected into rats, and which led to changes in their brain waves.
The article has been reported to the Press Complaints Commission by Cannabis Law Reform and the UKCIA, both of which have yet to update their respective news feeds with a final response from the PCC. Indeed, the Neurobonkers’ blog claims that ‘the article hasn’t been corrected and the PCC have categorically refused to look at the case’ – although a visit to MailOnline reveals that the headline has been altered. However, the headline is still factually incorrect and the introduction and sub-headings remain unchanged.
The article is part of a long-standing Daily Mail campaign against cannabis that has been covered in depth elsewhere and continues to highlight the need for the Leveson inquiry to ensure that science reporting is another area that badly requires some serious attention.
Featured image credit: Dorothy Bishop.