Recently, Lubos Motl wrote a blog post lamenting bad science reporting. IMHO, science journalists sometimes do a decent job, but 90% of the time they don’t. Some types of quantum computing articles that irk me:
Clueless Article: The journalist has no science degree, just a BA in art history or something like that, and yet he writes an article about a highly technical scientific subject like string theory. Often, he doesn’t ask any expert in the subject to proof-read his article, or, if he does, he ignores the advice.
Outright Wrong Article: The article praises a scientific paper that is completely wrong.
Hagiography: Article makes no attempt to explain any physics. Instead, the article describes a physicist who is supposedly the smartest person in the world, and who is exceptionally talented not only at physics, but at everything else too. No mention is made of the fact that said physicist is very selfish and narcissistic. The profession of physicist is not exactly an altrustic profession. Personally, I admire much more a medical doctor or nurse treating Ebola patients in Africa.
Cookie Cutter Article: The article follows a standard formula. One de rigueur paragraph explains the difference between a bit and a qubit. Also de rigueur is a quote by an MIT or Caltech colleague of Smith, saying how Smith’s brilliant paper was “a bolt from the blue”, and caught everyone by surprise.
Pseudo Authority Article: The journalist first learned about the subject of the article a few days ago, but he is absolutely certain that he already understands the subject better than people who have spent decades studying it.
Parroting Lies Article: The article simply parrots a dishonest press release by a University.
Snake Oil Advertisement Article: The article praises effusively an idea or technology (like quantum cryptography) without ever mentioning any of its numerous drawbacks.
Biased, One Sided, Favoritism Article: Article only mentions one person’s views or work. It omits to mention closely related and equally laudable work by others.
P.S. One pop-sci article format that often pleases me is the Q&A format: asking a scientist some good questions. This format is somewhat limited in scope, so there is a need for other formats, but I find it very entertaining—perhaps because I strongly believe in the value of allowing a person to hoist himself by his own petard 🙂