It wasn’t lost on me that the New York Times published a hit piece on macaroni and cheese on National Mac and Cheese Day. In other news there’s a National Mac and Cheese Day? The blog of the American Council on Science and Health has sharply criticized the piece. Basically, the article had nothing to do with mac and cheese; it was alarmist, exaggerated unscientific criticism of the product’s packaging and the same thing could have been written about kale:
The New York Times really stepped in it yesterday.
An article on the “dangers” of macaroni and cheese was so insanely wrong that it’s hard to believe it was in the paper at all.
But the author was Roni Caryn Rabin, who, although not a scientist, has written about health issues for more than 20 years. And she has done a lot of fine work. But this article was so deeply flawed and filled with scare tactics that it comes across as little more than an anti-chemical screed against a group of ubiquitous chemicals called phthalates.
This incident serves as a point of departure into any number of topics. For example, what the piece makes clear is the harm that hiring J-school grads has done to newspapers. When I was in college before the glaciers descended and dinosaurs ruled the earth, journalism majors were required to take arts and sciences minors. Nearly all took minors in either English or political science. There were no math or science requirements. In fact J-school is where you went if you wanted to avoid not just math and science but anything with even the slightest hint of rigor (like history). Why would you have a J-school grad write about health or science?
I could also jog into technocracy. It’s a bizarre sort of technocracy that avoids actual expertise in favor of faux expertise.
But where I want to land is on why newspapers are losing the confidence of the American people. When every conceivable subject is saturated with propaganda, ideology, and scare tactics, what in the world do you expect?