It's been a while since my last rant and my reader is keen that I have a go about this so.......
Back in 2013 I found the ichneumon wasp Lymantrichneumon disparis new to Britain. It was found on an RSPB reserve and they were keen to issue a press release about the find but I insisted that nothing was done before the discovery was properly published in a relevant journal. This took some time but the paper was eventually published a couple of months ago so I gave the RSPB the go-ahead to do the press release. They consulted me on the draft and I made a few changes so that it was factually correct. I put up with the cheesy quote attributed to me, even though it bore no relation to anything that I did or would say. It seems that all press releases have to have some sort of naff quote of this sort.
Neither I nor the RSPB expected the press release to be picked up by more than the odd local newspaper but it must have been a slow news week as it was used by at least 13 local and regional newspapers, plus two nationals; the Guardian and Express. I haven't looked at the local coverage but did look at the two nationals. Both reproduced the press release almost word for word but added little bits. The Guardian added that the site it was found at was in Kent (wrong) and that I am a butterfly collector (Seriously? What in the press release gave you that idea? Look at who I work for you ignorant prat). The Express went a little bit further and their accompanying pictures and captions are just so hysterical that it is worth having a look. I will of course now be carrying out all fieldwork wearing a 1950's suit and will start hunting for rare butterflies over the sea.
I suppose I shouldn't have expected any better as the standard of the British media is so awful these days but when the topic is something so innocuous, with no political connotations that certain sections of the media would want to put their right- or left-wing slant on, one has to question how they can make such a mess of the article. This isn't just an isolated incident as I see it every time I have any involvement with a press release.
So, one has to pose a question. What is the point of journalists? If they had just copied and pasted the press release it would have been accurate and would have conveyed to the readers all the information that was in the final article. All that the journalist has added is some nonsense about me collecting butterflies - despite the fact that the press release says that I was undertaking moth monitoring (of larvae as it happens) and that I was working for Butterfly Conservation. How did they take those pieces of information and come up with the claim that I was a butterfly collector? Presumably they had to read the press release so the only conclusion is that they have such a poor understanding of the subject that the words 'butterfly' and 'net' have only one meaning.
I cannot think of another profession (apart from politician) where such a level of incompetence would be tolerated.