Welcome to The Disinformation Chronicle, investigative journalism dedicated to helping the world understand corporate disinformation. Like McDonald’s, Coca-cola, and Levi’s jeans, scientific disinformation is an iconic American product. Although tobacco is the most famous example, U.S. industries began hiring public relations experts to spin information in the early 1900s.
Today’s corporations replicate this success. Fossil fuel companies hire academics and think tanks to deny and misdirect on climate science; food companies fund university research to refute junk food’s link to obesity; the chemical industry supports vanity journals and front groups that publish articles to attack independent research; and medical companies provide physicians with manuscripts ghostwritten by PR firms that deem products safe and effective.
Every week, we investigate disinformation campaigns, highlight case studies of corporate influence, and profile experts dealing with disinformation in their own fields of climate change, scientific publishing, medicine, chemicals, food, and the media.
Email tips to: DisInfoChron@protonmail.com
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How do we operate?
Our reporting stands on three legs:
1. Follow the Money – This standard journalism principle is often ignored by science writers, who are worried that exposing corporate backing will get them cut off from sources or who remain unaware of disinformation campaigns. We shine a light on financial influence, because research finds that funding biases science.
2. Name and Shame – The trains did not run on time; people made the trains run on time. We follow the journalistic principle of naming the people who keep the disinformation trains on schedule, and hold them accountable to our readers.
3. Show Me the Documents! – Too much journalism rests on claims made by purported experts with fancy titles or university affiliation. We will bring you the evidence, publishing emails, documents, and archived materials.
Don’t regular news outlets report on this?
Corporate disinformation succeeds because it regularly appears in traditional media, creating an alternative scientific realm that drowns out the voices of independent researchers. In just one example, New York Times reporter Kevin Roose wrote a story on coronavirus misinformation and cited Alex Berezow of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) as an expert source. In fact, ACSH is one of the oldest corporate front groups in America—paid by industry to undermine climate change in the 1990s, and later paid to publish disinformation on the dangers of chemicals, junk food, pesticides, and other harmful products.
Unfortunately, far too many journalists fall for corporate disinformation, thus our slogan “speculorum deserto,” Latin-ish for “wilderness of mirrors.”
Who runs The DisInformation Chronicle?
Paul D. Thacker is an investigative journalist with almost 20 years experience uncovering campaigns to distort science. He has written on scientific ethics for outlets including the New York Times, JAMA, Washington Post, NEJM, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, BMJ, and Mother Jones. He has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and Rolling Stone, and has been profiled by Nature and PBS.
While serving as an investigator in the U.S. Senate, he helped to produce stories that ran in dozens of outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Reuters, ABC News, Science, Nature, BMJ, and the Associated Press. His congressional investigations led to passage of the landmark Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a bill that has altered the field of medicine, and is now being copied in several countries including England, France, the Netherlands, and Scotland.
He is assisted by several of the smartest people in journalism and the nonprofit world. You can find his website here.
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