Bent Spoon

Each year the New Zealand Skeptics announces the Bent Spoon Award for the New Zealand organisation which has shown the most egregious gullibility or lack of critical thinking in public coverage of, or commentary on, a science-related issue.

We can all think of publications which run ridiculous and unbelievable stories as a regular part of their material. These are not Bent Spoon candidates. Instead we look for organisations and media outlets that tend to command credibility in the mind of the public, and who should have an accurate approach to information gathering and distribution. They are the ones who are rapped over the knuckles with the Bent Spoon when their professional standards lapse.

Year Recipient Reason
2019 Wellington City Council and their contractor Downer For using dowsing to find buried water pipes.

The story was picked up by several media outlets, including Newsroom and Stuff:

Wellington ratepayers foot bill for pseudo-science

Wellington City Council contractor Downer uses ‘magic’ dowsing rods to find pipes

2018 TVNZ – Seven Sharp & Hilary Barry For coverage of a story about health fears from mobile phone towers.
The story featured a woman who has built a wall to keep out radiation after two mobile phone towers were built near her home.

While the main segment had some balance, including statements from the Ministry of Health and Peter Griffin from the Science Media Centre. But after the segment Hilary Barry expressed her opinion that she “wouldn’t want to live beside two” phone towers and that she “would be tempted to build a wall like Marta has”.

2017 New Zealand Veterinary Association for their attempt to balance the need for evidence-based treatments for animals with the desire of veterinarians to sell unproven therapies
2016 NZ Herald for credulous journalism, repeatedly publishing articles that clearly disregard the weight of evidence
2015 Pharmacy Council for suggesting, when faced with the fact that pharmacists were not complying with their Code of Ethics, that a viable solution was to change their Code of Ethics.
2014 Steffan Browning for signing a petition that called on the World Health Organisation to “End the suffering of the Ebola crisis. by testing and distributing homeopathy as quickly as possible to contain the outbreaks.” Read more…
2013 Hamilton City Council for ignoring the evidence of the public health value of fluoridation Read more…
2012 Consumer magazine for continuing to promote homeopathic products as a viable alternative to evidence-based medical treatments
2011 Gullible media outlets and personalities for taking Ken Ring’s earthquake prediction claims at face value
2010 Rural Women New Zealand and Fonterra for supporting homeopathic practices on the farm, thereby indicating an ignorance of basic science and a lack of concern for animal welfare. Read more…
2009 Clyde and Steve Graf for their documentary “Poisoning Paradise – Ecocide in New Zealand” which claims that 1080 kills large numbers of native birds, poisons soils, persists in water and interferes with human hormones. Read more…[Ed – link no longer active]
2008 Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy for promoting psychics as “just another tool” in the investigative policing toolbox, helping the “exploitainment” show Sensing Murder Read more…
2007 TV3 news and Current Affairs and Carol Hirschfeld for her August 31 interview with self-proclaimed energy healer and clairvoyant Simone Simmons, who claims to be visited regularly by the spirit of Diana, 10 years after the death of the Princess of Wales. Read more…
2006 Diana Burns for “Come and Be Healed” the article in the Listener on Brazilian medium and “miracle-worker” Joao de Deus Read more…
2005 Tertiary Education Commission for identifying homeopathic training as a nationally important strategic priority for New Zealand Read more…
2004 20/20 for reporter Melanie Reid’s August 22 segment “Back from the Dead” profiling Taranaki medium Jeanette Wilson.
2003 Justice Minister Phil Goff for refusing to open the can of worms that is the Christchurch Civic Creche case (Goff was awarded the first-ever Bent Can Opener Award from the New Zealand Skeptics).
2002 Jeanette Fitzsimons for supporting the concept of biodynamic’s “etheralised Cosmic-Astral influences” as a means of ridding New Zealand of possums
2001 TopShelf Production for the “Hallelujah Healing” documentary on faith-healing Read more…
2000 Wellington Hospital for supporting healing hands therapy by its nurses
1999 Holmes for the coverage given to the Liam Williams-Holloway case
1998 TV2 for misleading the public over the truthfulness of an alleged documentary on alien abductions
1997 Correspondence School for numerology lessons in maths class
1996 NZQA for seriously considering awarding a Bachelor of Science status for a course at Aoraki Polytech on naturopathy
1995 Justice Department for the “Hitting Home” report on domestic violence Read more…
1994 TV3 for the “Satanic Memories” documentary
1993 Country Calendar for covering biodynamics as a serious pest control option Read more…
1992 Consumers’ Institute for their Alternative Medicine article