“Science found wanting in nation’s crime labs,” says the headline at the NY Times, which ran one of many stories on the upcoming National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science. This kind of front-page attention is long overdue, as shabby science that claims to be infallible has jailed many an innocent (and probably freed a few guilty). As the Knight Science Journalism Tracker notes,
The main surprise, upon reflection, … is that this news was not dug up and given heavy attention by media already, starting years ago.
Well, it was dug up, and it did get some press attention — though perhaps not of appropriate prominence. Michael Specter questioned fingerprint matching in a 2002 New Yorker article [download pdf], and the New Yorker visited forensics again in 2007 — though, in my view, through glasses a bit rosy. And — after failing to interest a couple high-profile magazines in the subject — I published in 2006 a story in Popular Mechanics that covered this ground.
As so often happens, the data was out there. But in this case it was — of all things — a government report that put it on the front pages and got wide play.