Monday, March 8, 2010

Too Blunt?

Eric Klemetti of the Eruptions blog reminded me today of his request for questions for Alan Boyle, science editor for He notes that time is running short, and that he will be passing off the questions to Mr. Boyle in the next few days. So if you have a question you've wanted to ask of someone who works in science media, here you go, but you need to act quickly (Instructions are at the last link above.)

It only took me a couple of minutes to compose mine. It's a little on the longish side, I think, and in retrospect, perhaps a little too blunt. But I still think it needs an answer. Perhaps sometime next week, it will get one.
Do journalists (both reporters and editors) realize how distressed science-literate readers are by the frequent mistakes, sensationalism, misrepresentation, and more subtly, inappropriate emphasis we so frequently encounter when reading MSM science reporting? I'm linking to an old blog post, if you have the time, in which I go on a rant regarding coverage of a "supervolcano" discovered in Italy. This is a useful example of a lot of the ranting in the science blogs, because I did a followup the next day to point out the aspects of the story that were important scientifically; the "supervolcano" angle and emphasis was not.

Supporters of science like myself want people to get excited about the subject. We don't mind a little sensationalism, because, frankly, science is pretty sensational. But when MSM science becomes all sensationalism to the extent that it's misinforming and misleading people on important aspects of the stories being delivered, many of us quit paying attention to the media sources. I don't watch television news any more, in part because of its loathsome science reporting. I certainly don't look to MSNBC online as a source of science news.

So to reiterate, are those of you in the MSM even aware of the magnitude of your credibility gap in the science community, and if so, do you have any plans or ideas for improving your reporting and delivery in the future?

If not, I think those of us in the geoblogosphere could offer some.

1 comment:

pygalgia said...

Yup. Just another of my many frustrations.
While geology is a topic where I'm rather weak, I do know a bit about biology, physiology, chemistry, history, politics, and energy. Not an expert in any, but enough to call "bovine excrement" at most media reports. It's rather depressing, really.
Keep up the good work.