Politics & Media
Dec 04, 2008, 07:08AM

The Tyranny of the News Hook

CNN pulls the plug on its science/environment/technology unit.

Not good:

This trend of destroying science journalism units within general news organizations is disastrous for the public and for the news media. It can't be a single correspondent or producer occasionally called upon to watch NASA conduct a press conference, because science isn't conducted in press conferences. It's conducted in technical journals, and in off-beat conferences in odd places. Science reporters have to go to those conferences and chat with scientists so that they can have a sense of what new developments mean, and where major fields are heading.

Without that background knowledge of the scientific field, journalists are stuck regurgitating press releases. Even well-written press releases are self-serving, and way too many press releases from scientists and universities are not well-written. They are too sensationalistic, presenting a minor new finding as if it were a revolution in science. The general public reacts to the torrent of breathless reports of (often contradictory) claims of revolution tends to tune the whole thing out. Reports without regular contact with the scientific community will tend to do the same, and to perpetuate that bad tendency on the few occasions when they can be convinced to cover anything at all.



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