No Loss: Science reporters becoming an endangered species — But almost all are dodos, anyway

“Without journalists to uncover stories and speak to authoritative sources, the public loses,” says an editor. But science is not received wisdom. Virtually all science reporters have yet to figure that out. Who-says-what isn’t important. What’s important is how they know what they claim.

IPS reports:

The news for environmental journalism in the United States is grim and getting grimmer.

On Mar. 1, the New York Times announced it was discontinuing the Green Blog that tracked environmental and energy news. In January, the paper had dismantled its three-year-old environment pod.

This year, too, Johns Hopkins University retired its 30-year-old science writing programme, following in the footsteps of Columbia University which, in 2009, closed its earth and environmental science journalism programme because of a poor job market.

Like climate change, the demise of science reporting is a slowly unfolding tragedy, say many environmental journalists in the United States.

At a time when conversations should be revolving around climate change, energy, natural resources and sustainable development, space for environmental reporting and coverage in the United States seems to be shrinking…

“A potential knowledge gap arises as environmental journalism shrinks. The public learns less about environmental and related health issues, but at the same time may fall prey to unscientific claims that often hold sway on the Internet,” a worried Samuel Fromartz, the editor-in-chief of the non-profit Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN), told IPS on the sidelines of the 23rd annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, held earlier this month in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“Without journalists to uncover stories and speak to authoritative sources, the public loses,” he said.

Read more…

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16 responses to “No Loss: Science reporters becoming an endangered species — But almost all are dodos, anyway

  1. Science reporting is dying from the same infection that is killing the ‘traditional’ media – magazines, newspapers, and network news. The infection is politics. Writers and reporters can no longer immunize themselves against the fever of their own political opinions, and their editors have caught the same bug. Once upon a time proofreaders were the last defense against the insidious opinions which distort real news, but they are all but extinct already.

  2. Mr. Fromartz last sentence sums up exactly what is wrong with journalism, “Without journalists to uncover stories and speak to authoritative sources, the public loses,” Remember when journalism was about speaking truth TO power? Now it aspires to be the mouthpiece of the powerful.

  3. Journalism is supposed to distinguish news from opinion. Journalists are supposed to report news objectively and knowledgably, even if they have to gain knowledge for particular stories by doing some research that they will forget shortly thereafter. That applies to a number of jobs, including my own — I call it “temporary expertise.”
    When a journalist says that a pH shift from 8.10 to 8.05 makes sea water more corrosive, the journalist has at the very least failed to find out what the pH scale measures. The journalist needed to acquire “temporary expertise” that was available on the web or in any intro-level chemistry book. That may or may not be advocacy but it’s surely a failure in due diligence.
    I’d like to think that science journalists were interested in science and knew something about it. I’d appear to be optimistic, though.

    • OMG, 8.1 – 8.05 look at the acidification there – The clams and mollusks which depend on CO2 for their shells will all die a nasty death in a giant vat of acid! Fishes gills will be corroded away! Tuna will swim 100 miles further south on the coast of Australia …

  4. Thanks for posting this. I have so many friends who just do not get it.

  5. Maybe if they were not just an echo chamber for the leftist environMENTALists, they would have their jobs.

    I stopped my subscription to Scientific American when they showed their true colors on the Global Warming issue.
    Prior to that, I thought of them as completely apolitical and totally trustworthy.

    • Popular Mechanics is also rather AGW-ish. To my surprise; engineers as a lot are pragmatic, in my experience, and PM used to have an engineering flavor about it.

      • I used to get Popular Science in the 1970′s as a kid. Back then they were about fantastic new science ideas. In the early 80′s they went AGW – and I stopped reading.

  6. “The public learns less about environmental and related health issues, but at the same time may fall prey to unscientific claims that often hold sway on the Internet”

    The marketplace has determined that the “unscientific claims” on the internet have more validity than what science journalists produce.

    The legacy press tells themselves they are losing market share because of new media. They are wrong. They are losing share because they produce crap. CRAP I tell you. Embracing the idea allows them to continue producing crap without feeling bad about it. They believe it’s not their fault.

  7. “They are a dying race, let them go.”
    I hope someone gets the reference or I’ll feel lonely here.

  8. What science journalists? Oh, I think he is referring to the Green stenographers. No loss, then.

    The office junior can cut and paste the press releases at much lower cost.

  9. (Paul P) The Narn or the Centauri?

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