Stellenbosch University
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Forward with Research Impact Lecture- Prof George Claassen
Start: 09/10/2019, 13:00
End: 09/10/2019, 14:00
Contact:Whitney Prins -
Location: Room 1012 (ground floor) R.W. Wilcocks Building

​​​Countering pseudoscience and quackery in the media – a journalist's moral dilemma


About the talk:

What are the moral responsibilities of the media to report news accurately, fairly, independently and, thus, being accountable to their readers, listeners and viewers? Furthermore, what moral responsibility do journalists have regarding science news and the overwhelming presence of pseudoscientific thinking and quackery, as often reflected in news reports and advertising? This research study and presentation investigate and scrutinise the moral responsibility of journalists and the media to expose quackery and dubious pseudoscientific practices in society, what Pigliucci (2010) calls 'nonsense on stilts'.



George Claassen is a former head of the Department of Journalism at Stellenbosch University where he still teaches media ethics and science communication. Claassen is a board member of the international Organisation of Newsombudsmen & Standards Editors' (ONO) and was ombudsman and public editor for the Cape Town daily Die Burger for eight years. Since 2008 he has been the ombudsman for Media24's Community Media, and from 2018 also public editor/ombudsman of News24. Claassen is an award-winning science journalist and was the first director of the Centre for Science and Technology Mass Communication (CENSCOM) at Stellenbosch University. He has more than 40 years' experience as a journalist and journalism lecturer and has published various books on media ethics, science and technology issues, and health quackery.

While based at the Center for Journalism Ethics of the University of Wisconsin in 2017, he researched the effects of misleading advertising in the health trade and the role the media play in sound media ethical reporting. In the same year he also organised the first international conference on the unethical dimensions of quackery in the health trade, held in Stellenbosch, and the media's duty to report health claims in an ethical and sound scientific way. Since 2012, he has been a science correspondent for RSG, the SABC's Afrikaans radio station. His book on health quackery, Kwakke, kwinte & kwale, published in 2014, became a South African bestseller, as was his first book on general science issues, Geloof, bygeloof en ander wensdenkery: Perspektiewe op ontdekkings en irrasionaliteite, published in 2008.  

Recent research includes a chapter on “Science, morality and the media: Complicity in spreading pseudoscience, or watchdog of the public?" in the book by Chris Jones and Jurie van den Heever (editors), Moral Issues in the Natural Sciences and Technologies. He is also a specialist in the way social media can be utilised by scientists to counter health quackery and pseudoscience.  

RSVP: Whitney Prins - by 8 October 2019