Edzard Ernst versus poor journalism in The Telegraph

Bitte beachten, dieser Artikel existiert auch auf Deutsch: https://blog.psiram.com/?p=3908

During these last few weeks, we blogged a lot about poor journalism in German publications, as e.g. „Die Welt“ and in „GEO“.

When we noticed a recent interview in the „Telegraph“ with Edzard Ernst, we were enthused, since we are huge fans of Mr Ernst.

We are certain most of our readers have already heard about Edzard Ernst, and probably read „Trick or Treatment“, a book on alternative medicine he wrote together with Simon Singh. Despite his being known here already, we would like to give our readers a short introduction;


Mr Ernst is the first Professor of Complementary Medicine in the world at the University of Exeter, England. He is the world’s leading expert on alternative medicine and a stalwart defender of scientific methodology. His position is probably best expressed in his own words (from an interview with Mr Ernst and Simon Singh):

For us, there is no such thing as alternative medicine. There is either medicine that is effective or not, medicine that is safe or not. So-called alternative therapies need to be assessed and then classified as good medicines or bogus medicines. Hopefully, in the future, the good medicines will be embraced within conventional medicine and the bogus medicines will be abandoned.


His work has earned him a lot of respect by scientists all over the world.

Back to the topic at hand. The article published in the Telegraph turned out to be – errrm, well. Let’s put it like this, it had a particular touch. We had expected something different, something more sound, with more style.
Taken aback, we decided to ask Professor Ernst about the article:

What annoyed you most about the „Telegraph“ article?

In my view, the most irritating thing was the attitude of the journalist. She seemed to belittle science and promote non-science. This is what one might expect from a cheap women’s magazine but not from the most-read UK broadsheet.

Well, we cannot agree more, the article sounded very condescending to us. The journalist’s attitude is probably most aptly described with „So what, I couldn’t care less“.

Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. We asked Professor Ernst about the quality of the article and possible mistakes. He was so kind as to provide a few examples:

There were too many factual mistakes and inaccuracies to mention. For instance, there is no such thing as „recuperative medicine“. I told her that I had the chair of rehabilitation medicine in Vienna. Similarly, I never said that at the peak my unit was doing 20 research projects; I told her that once we were 20 researchers. At that stage, we ran many more than 20 projects and even now we conduct about 20. These may look like trivialities but they are, in fact, the result of poor journalism.

Well, our German readers probably agree this is nowhere near what GEO or Die Welt published, but it is bad enough. Shouldn’t a journalist strive to get the facts straight? We are not certain which is worse: The blatant mistakes easily detected in our German newspapers or the negligent, lackadaisical mistakes in the Telegraph?

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