This year is being called the year everything became politicized, and Newsweek’s “tech and science” section is no exception.
I’ve written before about Newsweek unnecessarily using politics as clickbait. A few weeks ago, they connected Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., President Trump, and former Vice President Joe Biden in a story that turned out to be focused on a new cancer drug.
At first I thought it was just a misjudgment, but just this past week there have been two other incidents like it.
Tuesday, they published a piece entitled, “Good news Donald Trump, you don’t have to be very smart to be a good leader.”
The president is mentioned in two sentences, right at the beginning of the piece. The rest goes into the findings of a psychological study that suggests that “it’s possible for leaders to be too intelligent.”
Here are the two big problems: The study doesn’t say that low IQs make for better leaders, it only suggests that high IQs are associated with less effective leadership. The story itself never mentions any proof of Trump's intelligence, or lack thereof, just suggestions from his critics based on “spelling mistakes/can’t always remember names/grasp the finer points of traditional diplomacy.”
On Friday, they published one about Jared Kushner, and it turned out to be about a dementia study. The social media share title was dramatic: “Jared Kushner may live a shorter life or have a higher risk of dementia because he doesn’t read.”
Now, this case is slightly different than the others. Kushner is mentioned in the first two lines, but shares the lede with a whole sentence referring to the science that is actually the focus of the piece. He’s mentioned a bit more compared to the last piece about the president, with the Kushner angle being kept up through about half of the piece.
However, I still don’t see why it was necessary to mention Kushner. He’s not really in the news for anything related to this article, like McCain or Trump were with those problematic pieces.
The whole point of the research was that “reading could impact people’s lifespans and influence their risk of developing dementia,” but the author of this article even noted that “the study only included adults over 50, so the results might not be directly applicable to Kushner, who is only 36.”
Here’s the pattern I’ve seen emerge: There’s a new study or set of science that will be the center of the story. Hot topic politicians — McCain, Biden, Trump, and Kushner — are name-dropped in the title. They are connected to whatever study is going to be discussed as a hook into the piece, but quickly dropped as the piece focuses on the actual science.
So what’s the point?
Are they just using these political figures to draw in more page views? My guess would be probably. But is it unnecessary? Absolutely.
Gabriella Munoz is a commentary desk intern with the Washington Examiner and a student at Georgetown University.