Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Problem with Science Journalism

 
There are many problems with science journalism these days. One of the most important problems is that their sources (scientists) are highly unreliable as we witnessed in the recent Darwinius Affair.

One of the other problems is that science journalists have been very reluctant to criticize each other and maintain certain minimal standards of reporting. They are much more interested in giving each other awards for good writing than they are in evaluating good science.

Carl Zimmer has become an exception to the rule.1 He has taken on the role of defending his profession against those science journalists who would abuse science for the sake of a high profile publication [George Will’s Crack Fact-Checkers Continue Their Nap]. We need more journalists like Carl Zimmer and we need more scientists who will chastise their less-than-scientific colleagues when they step out of line.


1. Chris Mooney is another.

8 comments :

  1. Another problem: It's disappearing. Especially when media outlets are cutting back everywhere right now.

    We won't be able to consider good versus bad science journalism if it doesn't exist in the future.

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  2. perhaps I am misinterpreting what Prof. Moran is saying but in no way, shape, form, or regard can George Will be considered a scientist journalist.

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  3. SLC is technically correct, since George Will is a columnist who mainly writes about politics. But for the people who read his columns in the Post and many other newspapers it's a meaningless distinction, because they're getting misinformation.

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  4. SLC says,

    perhaps I am misinterpreting what Prof. Moran is saying but in no way, shape, form, or regard can George Will be considered a scientist journalist.

    He's a journalist who writes about science and that's all I care about.

    Are you suggesting that we shouldn't be concerned about him because he's not an official, card-carrying, member of some science journalist union?

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  5. Is Prof. Moran now asserting that every journalist who ever published a column about science is now to be considered a science journalist?

    Is Tom Friedman a science journalist because he occasionally writes a column on a science subject?

    By the way, Mr. Will, although, IMHO a jackass of monumental proportions, has defended the theory of evolution and bad mouthed intelligent design so he's not always wrong about science.

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  6. Science journalism is hard


    "The synchrotron radiation lightsource itself is a large ring in which X-rays moving at nearly the speed of light..."

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  7. SLC says,

    s Prof. Moran now asserting that every journalist who ever published a column about science is now to be considered a science journalist?

    No, not exactly.

    Are you asserting that science journalism is confined to the writings of card-carrying science journalists and everything else doesn't count?

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  8. My definition of a science journalist is an individual who primarily writes on science topics. Carl Zimmer is a science journalist. Chris Mooney is a science journalist. George Will and Tom Friedman are not. Will and Friedman occasionally write a column that is science related but most of their writings have no relationship to science. Calling Will and Friedman science writers is equivalent to calling Stephen Jay Gould a sportswriter because he occasionally wrote an article on baseball.

    ReplyDelete