The way we use words is a science unto itself. News sources count on words to do more than tell a story. Words get you to read the story. Will we turn to page A4 after the least bit of lead or will we just move on to the next headline? Will we click to see what happened or will we keep surfing? The answer is in the headline. To get the most readers, you gotta make it juicy, enticing, and — if possible — sexy and/or violent.
Accuracy often takes a backseat to anything that’ll make us feel anxious if we don’t read it, and hard facts might take a holiday when readership is down and our need for sensationalism is up. If you want to know what the words of a headline really mean, just flip it around and see what floats to the surface.
Obesity 'Virus' Spread Like Common Cold, Scientists Say
‘Causation and Correlation’ Least Attended Lecture by Undergrads
Just this month, FOX News said The Sun said an obesity virus has been identified; that you could become infected - and then fat. Far be it from me to question the journalistic integrity or the analytical skills of either of these sources or how high up they can ding the full-o-shit-o-meter.
Instead let’s go right to the fountainhead of this work, Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Dr. Dhurandhar did indeed conduct the research — and came to conclusions that make it glaringly obvious he skipped statistics class the day the lecture topic was “Causation and Correlation.”
Let’s go find someone who knows a thing or two about medical research, as well as causation and correlation, to give us their take on Dr. Dhurandhar’s work. Kathryn M. Levasseur, from Harvard Medical School, says, “First of all, it is important to note that a virus's ability to increase one's risk for obesity is not the same as actually causing obesity. Furthermore, it is unclear how infection with Ad-36 might increase one's risk for obesity.” No matter how you many times you read Dr. Dhurandhar’s research, and no matter how you interpret it, nowhere does it say, "Here is the fat-ass smoking gun."