Science reporter loses job over questionable grasp of science

A solid requirement for being a science reporter on television is a belief in some basic science.

Mish Michaels, a former Boston TV weatherperson (she referred to herself as the “station scientist”), has lost her job with the PBS affiliate in the city because she doesn’t believe in vaccinations, the Boston Globe reports.

“The decision was made that [Michaels] is not a good fit for ‘Greater Boston’ and she won’t be working there,” Jim Braude, host of WGBH’s “Greater Boston” tells the Globe. She was to report science stations stories for his program.

In 2011, she testified before the Massachusetts Legislature in favor of a bill to add parental choice to the list of reasons why some Massachusetts kids don’t have to be immunized as a requirement for attending school.

In her testimony before the Legislature, Michaels said her work as a “trained scientist and environmental reporter” had led her “to ask difficult scientific questions that often [took] me beyond scientific consensus.” She said she and her husband have a family member who “contracted leukemia after exposure to vaccines and pesticides,” and they have many “Ivy League-educated friends” who have autistic children.

“Up to that point, we believed what the media told us, that all vaccines were safe and effective,” Michaels said.

When she became pregnant in 2006, she told lawmakers, she began to “avidly research vaccine safety” and began to “present scientific research that was current and recent and new to news management [at WBZ-TV] and also began to present them with stories of vaccine-damaged children.” But Michaels said her bosses at the station were not interested.

“What I was told time and time again was that there is no story, that the science is settled, that there’s no reason to present stories of this nature on TV because simply these are fringe stories. This was not representing the masses,” she told lawmakers.

“To me, this was surprising because I thought the media was supposed to be the voice of the people, and clearly at that point, in my newsroom, it was not acting as the voice of the people,” she testified.

The testimony was cited in the 2014 book “The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public.”

[Update: She tells the Globe she never said she doesn’t believe in vaccines.]

But Michaels was done in by technology — a YouTube video of her testimony that made its way around the cubicles at WGBH, the newspaper said. The video has since been removed.

The Globe says her website section on climate change said “I do feel strongly that politics has warped the scientific process and natural variation has a much stronger hand than humans do.”

It doesn’t say that anymore, however.

From the archive: Climate change and the TV meteorologist (NewsCut)