Junk Watch

On the final day of my holiday in Donegal, I passed by a health food store. In the window was a handwritten notice offering “herbal swine flu remedies”. Then today, the Mayo News used their twitter account to promote the same idea. ‘Beat swine fly naturally with herbal remedies.’ Oh dear!


Pseudoscience has been a bugbear of mine for some time, whether it’s the homeopath selling a water bottle to cure all ailments or the more eccentric beliefs of chiropractors. I don’t mind that they exist, so much as that they are given free – and uncritical – publicity in every news outlet from the provincial press to national broadcasters and newspapers.

A couple of years ago, I even pitched Quack Watch to a client.

The idea was simple: a piece a week looking at the science (or lack of it) behind whatever strange claim received unwarranted publicity that week.

Quack Watch quickly expanded to Junk Watch, covering everything from garbled and outright inaccurate popular reports of academic research to poorly (and occasionally dishonestly) designed opinion polling.

The client didn’t bite, but I’m still available if you think the idea has legs, either as a column or a radio feature.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.