Katie Mack @AstroKatie (a.k.a. Dr Katherine J Mack) astrophysicist/cosmologist, occasional freelance science writer, connoisseur of cosmic catastrophes Feb. 05, 2019 2 min read

Last week, I declined to give a comment to a journalist about a story he was writing about another astrophysicist. Today, a quote from me appeared in his story---drastically mischaracterized, and taken out of context from another source.

I won't link to the article. But in general, if you see an article quoting someone as having told a different outlet something, it's a good idea to click through to the source of the quote and see what they actually said, and in what context.

As a side note: based on what the journalist told me when I asked him his angle on the piece, I had a feeling he might mischaracterize anything I told him, which is why I decided not to comment. What I did NOT expect was that he'd also mischaracterize things I told someone else.

Anyway, if you see an article claiming that I suggested another astrophysicist was "trolling for publicity," please ignore it. The claim is completely false, presumably intended to stir up trouble, at the expense of myself, my colleague, and the readers.

I really think it should go without saying that not being able to get exactly the quote you want doesn’t give you license to re-interpret someone else’s words in whatever way suits your own purpose. And I think when you’re corrected on your misinterpretation, you should retract.

An update: the @washingtonpost editor @zpincusroth has refused to take me out of @aviselk's misleading story, opting instead to just reword the reference to my quote. Meanwhile, the original wrong language has been reprinted in @nzherald, @chicagotribune, who knows where else.

I'm glad some correction was made to the @washingtonpost version (and very grateful to those who have helped make that happen) but I'm appalled that the original story ran at all, and was up for so long, twisting my words, and is STILL damaging my reputation via other outlets.

Several people have commented to me that they saw my "quote" and thought it was very uncharacteristic language for me to use. I'm sure many many more just read the story and accepted it.

And now I've just seen an article in @EpochTimes, reposted in @news_ntd, that basically just cribs from the @washingtonpost piece and claims that I "suggested it was all a publicity stunt in bad faith," which is equally wrong/libelous.

Sometimes I hate the new media landscape.

To give some context for why this is such a big deal: I’m a pre-tenure professor. Part of tenure is getting anonymous letters from senior profs you don’t work with. So a publication making me look petty and unprofessional toward a senior prof could seriously damage my career.

You can follow @AstroKatie.


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