Internet Bias and Antibacterial Soap

by on 2014/01/25 updated 2014/01/25

antibacterial soapMany professions have long displayed a bias against online information even as they themselves put more of their work product online. Lots of us encounter this bias when questions or information found online is brought up in conversation.  This is changing a bit now as the internet is available at almost everyone’s fingertips and dismissing offhand something found online is becoming more difficult.   I know that when I now encounter these dismissive attitudes from people, rather than feel frustrated and compelled to challenge, I usually chalk it up as a lost cause, an unimportant issue not worth pursuing.

Some professionals, like doctors, are getting a lot better about listening to and discussing information brought to them from patients researching their concerns on the internet. And today if you feel your doctor is dismissive when bringing up information you have found online, it is very easy to find another doctor why will listen, and compassionately discuss, what you may be concerned about.  However, even though progress has been made in many professions, there is still one that frustrates me on at least a weekly basis…. main stream media and journalism.

Have you ever heard the sarcastic retort: “Oh they read that online, it must be true”?  This dismissive attitude does not serve well at all what I considered to be the main purpose of our media, to educate and inform.  Media professionals, even for a big company, need to have an open mind towards the smaller voices on the internet, viewing those voices not so much as competition, but as sources of information that can be researched and then brought before the much larger audience of a big media outlet like Time magazine.

Right now you may be thinking where is this going?  What prompted this topic in one of this site’s infrequent blog posts?  Well, while reading an issue of Time magazine from a few weeks ago, (yes I do still read print magazines), I found this article:  Antibacterial Soaps Could Be a Total Waste.  It prompted some frustration, not because Time seems to restrict online reading of their content at that link to members only, but because it seemed like very little research had been done for the article I read in the magazine itself.  Like so often is the case, the tone of the article is that Time is breaking some big news.

Many other outlets also wrote about the issue at the same time and all of the ones I found followed the “breaking news” approach.  This happens so often now it is very frustrating.  This specific topic, the ineffectiveness and possible dangers of antibacterial soaps, is so old it is almost comic that it could treated as news.  Even I was writing about this almost 7 years ago!  And I have written about it many times since.  A Google search on the topic, restricted to just the month of June, 2008, returns many other related articles.

If journalists were less dismissive of what can be found online when researching their articles, we would be much better served.  Yes there is a lot of garbage and nonsense online.  But there are also a lot of people writing on issues that are cutting edge and eventually destined to become mainstream knowledge.  Professional journalists could help speed the process by keeping an open mind when writing their stories.  Don’t ignore something in the research just because it was written years ago by an unknown blogger.

In an age where news can be almost instantaneous no matter where you are in the world, it is sad that an issue like the dangers and ineffectiveness of antibacterial soap can be right where it was in 2007.  And even sadder still to realize, that because of this journalism bias, it may very well be in the same place in 2017.

Will Sig
1 Binky

A new post? I can’t believe it! It’s been a long time.

I suppose one of the worst things about the internet is that anyone can post anything about anything. But it can of course be an incredible resource for almost any topic. You just have to be careful of your sources.
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2 Will

My main frustration is that often information about an issue like this one has been online for years, sometimes even posted on big, established sites like The WSJ, The Environmental Defense Fund, or CNN. But then years later an outlet like Time Magazine will write an article about it and portray the issue like breaking news. If they would just be honest and say this issue has been discussed since 2007, rather than try to make it look like they have come up with something new we would all be better served.

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3 Will

By the way Binky, it is great that you guys are still going strong! I decided over a year ago that I would only write about things that I thought were being ignored online. The internet has changed dramatically since I started posting in 2006. Back then if I got worked up about an issue I would look online and find almost nothing about it so would rant myself about it just to get the issue noticed. Now when I research something that catches my attention I find so much online already that I usually don’t see the point in adding to the noise. One pet issue of mine that does not really seem to have caught on is Ethical Food. I probably should write an updated post on that just for old time sake.

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4 Carla

Will, you are so right it is increadible. Many newspapers are now surving hashed up news. What annoys me most is that they serve the same news aired out months ago as if it is a new story. Changing title and republishing doesn’t make it a new story.

You probably realized already that blogging is being taken much more seriously now. They also come in many different formats like podcasting, video blogging and lately you can either read or listen to a blog post. I urge you to stay in the game and write.

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