Thursday, February 13, 2014

coral bleached-odd definition of decimated


past tense: decimated; past participle: decimated
  1. 1.
    kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of.
    "the inhabitants of the country had been decimated"
  2. 2.
    kill one in every ten of (a group of people, originally a mutinous Roman legion) as a punishment for the whole group.
    "the man who is to determine whether it be necessary to decimate a large body of mutineers"

ABC use the word in the following headline:

We did not find the word "decimated" used by scientists in the article, this appears to be another case of ABC exaggeration. 

A recent relevant CSIRO report provides the following information about the bleaching event:
Unfortunately, on the trip the research team found evidence of coral bleaching in the region due to some recent marine heatwaves, including the bleaching of a pocket of ancient coral heads – many up to 400 years old – that have provided an important record of reef health.
“We suspect this bleaching event was due to marine heatwaves that occurred in the region over the past few summers, and to see it up so close was sobering,” said our lead scientist on the project, Dr Russ Babcock.
“But to offset this loss, some reefs only a short distance north showed much less damage and will continue to contribute to a healthy ecosystem. By studying these sorts of variations and why they occur, we can improve our overall understanding of the marine environment in the region, and how we can best preserve it”.
The team managed to take some great images of the incredibly diverse flora and fauna that sits under the waters of the Pilbara. We asked Russ to run us through a few photos from the trip to give you an insight into the work of a marine biologist – and maybe even help you learn something in the process! Click on one of the images below to view the gallery.
Decimation seems an exaggeration to me. One of the images accompanying ABC's report which presumably shows the purported "decimation" is re-produced below:
This is ABC's caption: Christmas Tree Worms on a Porites coral head, that has been bleached by a marine heatwave off WA's Montobello Island.
This is a CSIRO photo. Here's the CSIRO's caption for the same photo (oddly no mention of bleached coral): "A coral reef Christmas Display. Those coloured blobs you can see are called Christmas Tree worms, and they are sitting on a porites coral colony. The worm's name is misleading on two counts-they spend their whole life sitting in a tube in a decidedly un-worm like state, and they prevalent all year round,but just don't tell the kids."
We have asked Alan Sunderland and CSIRO's Dr Russ Babcock for comment.

From ABC 11/3/2014:
Thank you for your email of 13 February concerning coral bleaching off the Pilbara coast.  

As your correspondence raised concerns of a lack of accuracy, your email was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC's editorial standards. In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the story and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy, as outlined in section 2 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. In the interests of procedural fairness, we have also sought and considered material from ABC News.

The word 'decimated' used in the headline was taken directly from the CSIRO's Media Release which states:

"Some unwelcome discoveries were made, including the bleaching and decimation of a pocket of ancient coral heads - many up to 400 years old - that have provided an important record of reef health".

As the CSIRO is Australia's top scientific organisation, the use of the headline 'Coral reef off Pilbara coast in Western Australia decimated by marine heatwave, scientists say' is a legitimate description of the content covered in the story.

The original caption, however, did not refer to the photo that was published and has been changed.

ABC News apologises for any confusion that may have resulted.

score +1

1 comment:

  1. Decimate means to reduce by 10%. Clearly the word is totally misused when describing a complete collapse or destruction of something which is it's often used meaning today. However would you expect an ABC deadhead news/headline writer to know any better ? I would think not.


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