Today’s science and health news saw two big news which turned into wrong leads — one was an 18-year-old girl from a Kolkata High School caliming that she had been awarded a NASA research scholarship for her ‘Black Hole Theory’ and no science reporter worth the salt bothered to check that there is no such theory.
Secondly, Johns Hopkins researchers have proved the so-called Instant Blood Pressure app that is no longer available for purchase but was downloaded more than 100,000 times is giving out 8 wrong readings out of 10, questioning its scientific veracity.
The first story about an 18-year-old high school girl comes as a notorious trick for reporter to fall for as it had all misgivings from the beginning. She claimed that she will pursue her Ph.D. in London whereas NASA never had any such London connection, let alone a centre for study. Perhaps, the girl must have guessed that the fund-starved NASA has its study centre in London.
Secondly, she said it was offered by NASA’s Godward Institute, whereas anybody familiar with NASA knew that it should have been Goddard Institute. Above all, Indian reporters never check their sources for accuracy and it has come to the public notice glaringly. Just one look at NASA website would have revealed the faux-pas being planted by the girl.
Starting from The Times of India, DNA India, Mumbai Mirror, Zee News, The Better India, Deccan Chronicle, and Hindustan Times jumped the guns to scout for the story and thankfully, she did not mention a British institute as it would have gone unnoticed forever.
Thankfully, NASA has clarified clearly denying the girl’s claims: "We have no record of any student named Sataparna Mukherjee being granted an internship, scholarship or any form of academic or financial assistance from our institute. Furthermore, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies has no facilities in London and all of our internships are awarded to students who live within 50 miles of our location in New York City. The application deadline for our 2016 students closed March 1. We have not made any selections yet," said NASA.
This is not the first time that such planted "wrong" stories make headlines when they emanate from the United States. Two years ago, a Telugu Foundation based in the US has floated a story that the US Postal Department will issue a stamp in memory of legendary Telugu film star Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR), who died in January 2014. While the unverified news made it to headlines, even his own son bought it and proudly announced it in the public.
When the US gave a clarification that there is no such stamp in the pipeline and expressed their ignorance about the person and the commemoration stamp, few newspapers tried to correct their already-sold story. So much for the media that goes agogue without verifying facts and churning out pub reporting.