Separating the wheat from the chaff

“Red wine in moderation is good for you”… “No it’s not, all alcohol is bad”… “More than two eggs a week are bad for you”… “No they’re not, eggs are good for you”…

Open a newspaper or fire up the internet and you are hit with an avalanche of information. Some of it news worthy, some not, but all of it fighting for your attention. It can be hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff. With the advent of digital and social media, and the proliferation of smartphones, access to information and news is at our fingertips 24/7. This can be a good thing, with citizen reporters bringing us news from the front lines and sharing unique perspectives on events. It can also be a bad thing, allowing every lunatic or corporation with an agenda and an internet connection to masquerade as a journalist.

It used to be easier to make sense of it all. Opening our daily or weekly broadsheet, we could relax, safe in the knowledge that the guardians of the truth would take care of it for us and only publish the truth, with every story being fact checked for accuracy, relevance and B.S. We could put our faith in the journalists to bring us the truth, instead of having to try and sort through it all by ourselves.

Today it is a different story, with business at the speed of light and instant news, high journalistic standards can sometimes be compromised for speed of publishing and getting the scoop. This time of year, health information, often “sciency” sounding, is to be found everywhere. It will be accompanied by headlines designed to suck you in. Fad diets, miraculous detoxes, amazing super foods, wondrous berries and life affirming waters promise to transform your life.

It can be hard knowing what to believe. Often research is funded by lobby groups with agendas. Press releases are dressed up as hard hitting stories. Conflicting and confusing information abounds. I would love to be able to point readers in the right direction and straight to the truth, but unfortunately I can’t. All I can do is advise caution, a healthy dose of skepticism, and perhaps for 2017 an awareness of the maxim “Don’t believe everything you read.”

Happy New Year.

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