CONTACT Not letting facts get in the way ... - Dr. Christian Thurstone

The folks who worked on this ditty for MSN were so busy cheerleading for marijuana that they probably didn’t stop to consider the idiocy of their work product — but you should.

First, check out the headline below. Note: researchers at Temple University School of Medicine were working with synthetic compounds similar to the active ingredient in marijuana. They weren’t even working with cannabis. And no one “lit up” or smoked anything. Researchers were working with cell culture models.

That the phrase “fat-ass sticky-icky” is used to describe anything about this research speaks volumes about the journalism majors who brought you this information — and plenty of other information you should be suspect of, I’m sure. If people are merely scanning headlines in search-engine results, they’ll see another ludicrous headline pumped out by MSN:

MSN_Search_Results copy

Then there’s the last sentence of the MSN brief, which is anything but funny: “Presumably, the take-home message here is do not have unprotected sex unless you are nicely baked.” Actually, “baking” before having unprotected sex is strongly correlated with STD transmission (yes, including HIV), unwanted pregnancy and high numbers of lifetime sex partners by age 15.

Journalists must take great care with headlines appearing over their stories and in search-engine results. Increasingly, people “scan” for news and information. They’re not digging in for details. If you just saw this and the even more stupid headline that shows up in search-engine results, you might think “pot” now cures HIV.

If the writer had stuck only to describing the research in headline and body text and had lopped off that last sentence that I’m sure he/she intended to be suuuuuuuper funny(!), this item would have been useful. It would have been informative. It would have connected people quickly to the original source.

And it would have done all of those things without conveying the writer’s obvious bias.


Christine Tatum is a former staff writer for the Chicago Tribune and The Denver Post. She served as 2006-07 national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. And yes, she’s married to Dr. T. You can learn more about here here

About Christine Tatum

Christine Tatum is a veteran journalist whose communications and market intel firm, Media Salad, Inc., helps companies and nonprofit organizations win business and stay ahead of their competitors. Her professional stops include the Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post, the (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Daily Herald and the (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record. Her work also has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, and New York Times.

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