From time to time, a journalist makes such a shoddy contribution to their noble profession that we at Crikey feel it cannot go unmarked and unrewarded. And so it is that ABC News gets its very own Wankley Award for a report from Alice Springs that aired on Sunday night’s 7pm bulletins.
As the colour story kicker at the end of the bulletin, reporter James Dean brought viewers the story of an international delegation from the UAE visiting Alice Springs to promote the practice of “earthing”. Earthing, or grounding, is a pseudoscience practised by chef Pete Evans and mocked by the ABC’s comedy The Weekly last year, and described by the delegation’s doctor Mohamad Asmin from the Euro Arabian Hospital in the ABC story like this:
“By earthing we help the negative electrons to come from earth to our bodies and it neutralises the atmosphere inside the body.”
It involves either being barefoot outside, as in this case, or purchasing indoor earthing systems, which practitioners say have health benefits.
The two-minute story described how the visitors believed that walking on the hot sand — sometimes up to 50C — was good for your health. It used grabs from the good doctor, another representative from the delegation, and a script from Dean that included reference to the “health benefits” of earthing, including reduced anxiety and increased testosterone.
Dean did not use comments from anyone who spoke about the actual medical or scientific evidence (or lack thereof) for the practice.
In a statement to Crikey from the Public Health Association of Australia, a spokesperson said that while it was beneficial to promote spending time outside, the “health benefits” of earthing were unproven, and warned the media and the public against getting caught up in “exaggerated or unproven claims”:
“The PHAA acknowledges that this activity is probably likely to have some benefit — but no more so than any other form of physical activity or exposure to nature, and anything beyond that is unproven … It’s good to see the media’s promotion of activities that get people outside and being active, but we would definitely caution against promoting unproven medical theories in the course of this.”
The ABC did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.