Imagine for a moment that a distant family member, one of those self-important self-made types, forgets old ties of blood and fellowship and berates his kith and kin for two years, lords his wealth and makes a big deal about all the parties he paid for. There is hardly a need for an in-depth study to establish that the aforementioned pomposity would lead to being severely disliked. Yet, Pew Research Centre insisted on conducting a survey across 25 countries to tell the world that the United States’ popularity, globally and amongst its allies, has steadily diminished during the Donald Trump presidency. As the teenagers are fond of saying — obvio.
The penchant for researching, reporting and stating the obvious has infected newsrooms, political speeches and even scientific research. The simple explanation for this tremendous waste of resources is that confirming what people know, not challenging them, is an easy (and perhaps lazy) way to stay relevant. Hence, “pollution levels go up during Diwali” surprises no one, but the details interest most people. Then there is actual scientific research undertaken, in the 21st century, to prove that “alcohol reduces reaction times during driving” and that “making exercise fun encourages fitness”.
What is so wrong with “duh” science, as it is colloquially referred to, some may ask. After all, the algorithms of social media giants do much the same thing, as does every form of advertisement — give the people what they want and more of what they agree with. And isn’t it important to confirm and repeat what people know? Don’t we all conduct experiments long since proven in school? After all, poetic licence allows for repetition, and isn’t journalism just literature in a hurry? Unfortunately, for their practitioners, the principles of news and science differ from those of the peddler and the textbook writer. Being informative and generating novelty falls on them, no matter how tough the task. Besides, there is another term to describe the sea of obvious fact presented as new discovery. Boring.