Monday, March 21, 2011

Dear BBC News, are you writing your stories too fast?

There's a story on BBC News titled Crowd-sourcing aids Japan crisis and points to a web site where people can submit radiation readings from around Japan. That site is RDTN.org.

The BBC says:
To contribute to the RDTN site people will have to purchase a radiation detection device and the site directs people to four sources of such equipment. A typical device currently sells on Amazon for around £78.
So I followed the link to RDTN and then to the Amazon.com link they provide. It takes you to an Amazon.com search for radiation detection devices. Now can we find in that list a radiation detector selling for about £78?

Oddly, the first item on the list Electronics for Radiation Detection (Devices, Circuits, and Systems) is a book selling for $127.90 (which in Sterling is... £78.64). Now, I'm not saying that the BBC wrote this story so fast that they just clicked through and wrote down the first thing they saw, but...

... if you flick through all three pages of results you won't find anything that detects ionizing radiation (there are a few EMF detectors) and nothing else costing £78. Suspicious?

Update. Sometime after I wrote that the text changed to:
To contribute to the RDTN site people will have to purchase a radiation detection device and the site directs people to four sources of such equipment. A typical device currently sells on Amazon for around $78 (£47).
Still can't find the detector they are talking about...

And, the article still doesn't quote anyone saying the service 'aids Japan crisis', nor does it claim this is helping at all.

Update. This morning, Tuesday, March 22, the article has been updated again and the offending paragraph says:
To contribute to the RDTN site people will have to purchase a radiation detection device and the site directs people to four sources of such equipment.
So, any reference to the equipment on Amazon.com has been removed. Oddly, you wouldn't know that the article had been updated this (or the previous time) because the "Last Updated" time hasn't changed since the article was originally posted.

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