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“The older scientist dismissed journalistic standards.” Maybe, just maybe, the older scientist had been burned in the past by an unchecked journalist. I worked in the media for almost four decades and watched many a story mangled. All too often journalists want to write and not to report. They like stories. And it is amazing how often journalists tune out when the story they are finding doesn’t reinforce the story they are intent on writing. Journalists are too protective of what they perceive as their “turf” than of getting the story right. Accuracy should be the first goal. Sadly, when a story is being slapped together in minutes to meet deadline at a daily paper, errors are often made — errors that might be quickly caught and corrected by the researcher, or whomever, involved.
Very interesting that this article totally ignores the complete bastardization of journalistic ethics in writing about “Climate Science.”
Climate Science today has little to do with “science,” and nearly all to do with political policy advocacy.
Journalists toe the line in dealing with “climate.” Or they are attacked.
Climate “Scientists” write books on Public Relations (they call it “Science Communications” or other silly terms–but it’s all about spinning for political points).
Fascinating and thought-provoking. I hope we find ways to sustain science journalism. Sorry to hear about the demise of Health News Review and I will be looking into the web publishers mentioned by the author. In the science community, we are taught to welcome/accept debate and uncertainty. This appears to bother or confuse people not steeped in the Way of Science. I could hope that the more people see the way scientists work and think, it will at least be less misunderstood and accepted. Journalists bring science to a wider audience and give a hearing to work that might be tamped down by the “perceived wisdom of the day”. That is why we can’t just depend on peer review to keep us honest. Sharing ideas between scientists is vital and fun. Journalists then help us to communicate our discoveries and keep things in perspective. We reach for the stars but need to have a stable ladder to stand on.
While there’s emotional value to Zimmerman’s experience leading off this story, it also offers a really unacceptable situation. We’re told she’s declining to identify the offending researcher and institution for fear it will negatively affect “her nascent career.” But if we’re to hope that this kind of stupid response from a researcher/institution will cease, then victims need to be transparent and name names. Citing an example without disclosing the guilty party does no one any good and may do additional harm by suggesting other individuals and institutions function in similar fashion. At some point, people facing such refusals need to put the larger welfare ahead of their own. As a long-term PIO, I’d want to know if one of my faculty, or even my institution, was behaving so. Otherwise, I’d have no way of making changes that would benefit journalists and the public alike.
I appreciate Earle’s wise words on the need for disclosure. Universities and other public institutions enjoy the respect of society and tax breaks. If their professors are doing science, much of it is publicly funded. They have a duty to be open to public scrutiny, and that means journalists should not be letting them “review” what has been written before publication. If the journalist gets it “wrong” according to the institution or individual scientist, that’s unfortunate, but the fact is institutions and individuals always have a self interest.
Thanks for the concurrence, Shannon! My gripe is really twofold: Researchers, be they primary investigators of a project or heads of conferences, have only one role in dealing with reporters — providing information! It’s the reporters’ role to determine what they write without any review (except to insure reasonable technical accuracy of the science) from the researcher. At the same time, the reporters’ obligation is to tell a complete, unbiased story, one adequate in context that allows readers to make informed decisions about the story’s issues. In this case, without the offending researcher or meeting being identified, readers may assume this problem is rampant when it maybe an isolated case. Forward-thinking institutions and PIOs can do nothing to remedy the situation without transparency. While Teresa’s story is interesting, her failure to provide the essential identifications in the opening reinforces the possibility that other essential information was also omitted, calling into question the credibility of the entire piece. Reporting well is hard work. In this case, I think the anonymity of the situation in question detracts.
Your article iş very infirmative. It is a pitty to read that science journalism is declining.
I am trying to promote science Journalism in Turkey on academic level.
Please inform me of the travel fellowships on the issue.
Dr. Gülsen Saray
So interesting that when an expert who usually scrutinizes journalists’ articles, does the same for articles written by scientists, he still finds faults in them. One might have assumed that if you’d only let scientists write about science themselves, we’d reach nirvana.
I cannot tell from your post if you are being sarcastic or not and/or about what, and why–the post did not make any statements that could be evaluated, only hints about your feelings about things, which are so lacking in transparency that your meaning is totally obfuscated–but if you meant to suggest, seriously, that it would be Heaven on earth if someone with the power to decide who writes about what, not only in their particular organization but by exercising power over the whole country and all outlets for speech, made a law forbidding anyone but scientists to write about science–well, 1) very fortunately, the First Amendment expressly forbids the making of any such law by Congress, the only body empowered to make national laws, and 2) that is like exactly like saying it would be Nirvana if that illegal law only let investment bankers/the communications departments of JPMorgan Chase, etc. write stories about what’s really going on on Wall Street, or only let politicians write about politics. Only the Trump Administration write about the Trump Administration. Nirvana? No, unlawful at the highest level according to the document that is the basis for the rule of law at least in the US. Because the Founders, as early as 1792, expressly protected free speech and a free press in its very first amendment. The reasoning behind that, as explained by James Madison and others involved in authoring the very earliest versions of the Constitution, was that both are essential for the existence and preservation of a democracy. I agree with them. Full disclosure: I am a member of that free press and, specifically, a science journalist; though I can no longer make a living at it, like many of my fellows in what is rapidly becoming the post-journalism era. Aka your “nirvana.” (I’m also assuming you are using “nirvana” as a synonym for non-Buddhist ideas such as Paradise, Heaven, etc. If you do mean nirvana in the Buddhist sense, i.e. the blessed state of oblivion and eternal freedom from the threat of further existence in, or at least deception by, the illusion that “material reality” is not an oxymoron, then you are right. But from that point of view, science, which presumes that material reality is not only not an oxymoron but in fact worth investigating as though the results would be enlightening, is wrong on both counts and only worth pursuing if it reduces the suffering of us unfortunate incarnates. That I disagree with. But then, I’m the sort of person who chose journalism, specifically science journalism, as a career over the much more lucrative and, as it’s turned out, secure one I could have had if I’d actually attended Harvard Law School after being admitted. thus, again biased.)
Fascinating and disturbing