xMax and the media

Media reporting of science and technology is in general notoriously poor. Media coverage of xMax is no exception. With depressing consistency these reports present the story given to them by XG Technology with no attempt whatsoever at a critical evaluation or a balanced presentation of differing points of view. At best there are some token statements about the fact that the technology is yet to be fully proven, or some other vague comments designed to give the illusion of being even handed.

It is not difficult to understand why this is so. The journalists and reporters are not, and can not be expected to be, experts on the technology which they are writing about. So they can not make any reasonable assessment of the technology of their own knowledge. They must rely on “the kindness of strangers” in order to form an opinion. To get a balanced coverage is quite difficult. You need to identify and contact a number of independent experts in the specific technology area, convince them to invest the time and effort to study the technology in question (for free!), and to present the results to you in a language comprehensible to a layman. You then need to understand and organize all that information in a way that would be understandable to the reader. This is a lot of work. On the other hand, you could just paraphrase the material handed out by the company, add a few obligatory non-specific statements on the need for caution, and be done with it in a jiffy. So guess which approach you are most likely to take?

Another important force operating here is that the media naturally wants to write about stories which are interesting. Now a story which talks with unbridled enthusiasm about an exciting revolutionary technology which is going to change life as we know it , is far more interesting that a story which discusses the technology in a calm, fair and balanced manner. Hmmm, you have to choose between the exciting and the boring – I wonder what you will do …

There are some exceptions to this rule. Consider for example a recent article by Peter Judge on the xMax technology. Some of his earlier articles were also more balanced than most. Sadly such exceptions are few and far between.

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