On science journalism

Martin Robbins has a nice little write up on science journalism and it’s apparent fall from grace in favour of ‘science communication’. That is, those in the media who are simply reporting things, rather than actually digging into stories and doing some real investigation.

It’s well worth a read, but come back here afterwards as there are two points I’d raise in comment. First off, while I think this is generally true, there is some commentary to the effect that all these people are doing is imply communicating science. Well if that is all they are doing (as opposed to proper investigations and reports) then I think many would agree that they are terrible even at that. They seem to have reduced themselves to a fraction of their former identity and with a corresponding reduction in quality. As noted on here repeatedly, the inability of a great many places to even spell names properly, distinguish between major fields of biology, confuse birds with pterosaurs and the rest does not make for confidence in even a diminished role.

Secondly there are a few comments on the recent (and in my opinion, excellent) documentary on the state of science by the head of the Royal Society. This was given a little criticism on the grounds that it was presented by a scientist and not a journalist. As with Robbins, I can see the point. However, the other side of this is that too often we see documentaries, reports and especially the news that they give balance to a side that should have no say and credence to things that are not science, or are far from the mainstream (which brings to mind this quote again). I can see why people might not like to see a scientists just talking about the science (especially when it’s about the public perception of it) but if the alternative is to give balance to something that shouldn’t be there, then I think it’s by far the lesser of the evils.


I’m off to Zhucheng for a few days, so this might be the last post for a while. Depends on access really, though hopefully I’ll have some publishable things as a result of this trip….

2 Responses to “On science journalism”

  1. 1 Heinrich Mallison 29/06/2011 at 7:08 am

    Who BUT a scientist should report on science?

    Seriously, we all know we can’t trust the jerks who after grammar school went through a 6-month internship (unpaid) and now believe they are “the journalist who saved the world(tm)”. There are a few good people out there, but every time I look at their CVs they turn out to be – guess what? – ex-scientists.

    The public perception is a slightly different matter, but why should there be a monopoly on reporting on it for journalists? They are allowed to report on science, culture, economy, politics – if they want a monopoly on “public perception”, I want one on “science” for scientist, and “economy” for economists. That might stop the 90% back copy and paste BS our news is filled with these days!

  1. 1 The Attack of the Infinite Monkeys | Contoleon.com Trackback on 15/03/2012 at 1:07 pm
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