Complaining about the way in which the popular press garbles and misrepresents aging research is evergreen. The economic incentives operating on professional journalists mean that they garble and misrepresent everything; it is how they operate. When you can make money by selling garbled, misrepresented stories as news, and spending more to get it right doesn't cause you to make more money, then it is inevitable that the end result is of low quality. Specialist knowledge and effective fact checking are not cheap propositions when compared with the cost of paying for writers. Some people argue that the situation has become worse in this modern age of low-cost communication, but I suspect that it has just become easier to see the true scope of the problem. After all, these days we have easy access to both original source materials and the specialists who know what is actually going on under the hood.
I don't agree with all of the article quoted below, in particular the matter of whether or not advocates and scientists should avoid talking about greatly extending human longevity. I think that it is useful and necessary to talk about radical life extension of decades or centuries. The bounds of any discussion fall somewhere in the middle of its far extremes, and if no-one is talking about complete medical control over aging, then the middle ends up being support for some mediocre goal such as the original Longevity Dividend proposal of finding drug candidates to slightly slow aging in ways that might add five years to the healthy human life span, assuming you're not already old when the drugs arrive. So much more than that is possible and plausible - actual rejuvenation treatments based on repair of the damage that causes aging - but only if there is widespread support and large-scale funding for the work.
The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the attention given to science intended to increase healthy human lifespan. This increased coverage, as anyone would assume, should have represented a step forward. With astronomically wealthy private entities such as Google in support, many predicted a move toward a more legitimate and widely accepted status for both the industry and its advocates, investors, and experts. However, coverage of research and developments is still being taken out of context and hyped up to the point of farce. The main issue being the media's fixation with the notion of immortality.
The media's obsession with immortality is of course rooted in the need for an attention-grabbing headline. Ignoring the science and focusing on the possible fantastical outcome of living forever is an easy way to reel in readers. The problem with this coverage is that it doesn't show any interest in the actual progress of science, and further alienates the industry, associating the bizarre with the real and critical.
Furthermore, for readers, these attention grabbing headlines are neglecting the actual scientific processes and complexities of anti-aging research. What we are left with is a stripped down version of the industry, which doesn't reflect the developments in healthy life extension, and withdraws from any real in depth analysis. Advocacy coming from among those who are interested in immortality will no doubt increase, but not the awareness amongst the general population, what the industry is really aiming for.
Rather than being seen as a single issue subject, life extension science wants to be seen for what it is, an important and complex area of science aiming to eradicate age-related disease. Real and, in many ways, awful diseases and conditions which blight us later in life, no matter how much our lifespan has increased. For journalists and news outlets covering life extension, instead of conceding in creating clickbait titles which attract one-time readers on the subject, why do they not engage in a debate and provide real analysis, which would more than likely, over time, establish a base of returning readers.
Life extension has been granted its place in mainstream media, which many areas of science would still love to acquire, but this elevated position is currently not doing anyone any favours. With this obsession with immortality, people who could be potential supporters and advocates of healthy life extension are put off. By asking the question 'do you want to live forever?' rather than 'do you want to see more investment in cures for age-related disease?' the media faces the reader with a fantastic and in many ways terrifying notion, instead of one which is entirely practical and more likely to be universally supported. Greater exposure then, of this kind, has a direct negative impact on advocacy.