Rebooting Science Journalism

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web

Saturday, January 16 10:15 – 11:20am

D. Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs

Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs– will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?


A note from Carl: First of all, no one is allowed to call David “David Dimmer” upon penalty of expulsion from the session for cheap humor. More seriously, we welcome questions here as we shape the session. What do people want to know? (Warning—we may not know either.) Carl Zimmer

Following on from Carl, anyone calling me Ed Yobbs will be waterboarded. But yeah, questions. Give them to us. What it is about science journalism that you want us to blither about? For starters, no one is allowed to ask anything along the lines of “What’s better, blogging or journalism?” It’s boring, and all four of us do blog and do freelance journalism and there’s nothing pretty about watching grown men hitting themselves.

A small point of clarification: I really only do one thing, but nobody’s sure of whether it’s blogging or journalism. So, maybe those who do both could point out if/how they view them as different. John

I’d love to see a look at Futurity included in this — journalism-like write-ups of research produced by the universities where the research originates, put forward as something to fill the vacuum left by the decimation of MSMscience writing. Maryn McKenna

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on anonymous science blogging. Some scientists,particularly those affiliated with universities, feel uncomfortable using their real name on their blog for fear that their institution will tell them to stop blogging without really taking a look at the usefulness of their output. Do institutions which don’t support blogging employees have good reason not to do so? Is there an etiquette protocol bloggers could adhere to which might make their employers more comfortable with their writing? Jessica Hekman (no link to my semi-anoymous blog).

A quote, a link, and questions: “I’m not reaching the people out there who read the New York Times and know very little about health care, and I’m not being told much by the New York Times, and that drives me nuts.”
That’s from Maggie Mahar, a health care blogger, in a post at PBS MediaShift about whether health bloggers can fill the gap left by legacy media.
The question: If science and health bloggers do eventually fill the gaps, then don’t we all still face a distribution problem? As Mahar says, her thoughtful long form work isn’t reaching even the readers of the NYT. Most folks say Lindsey Hoshaw’s best ocean garbage dump work failed to get into the NYT story or website, even with innovative funding. How can thoughtful, long form science journalism (or any kind of journalism) find its market on a crowded web when most media sites focus on celebrity news to get quick, cheap hits? It is true as Dan Gillmor says, “We have a demand problem, not a supply problem.” If so, how can it be fixed?
(From Andria Krewson)

Addendum to previous from Andria: The Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News and Observer are now launching two shared pages on science, with sponsors found in advance, and with content from freelancers. Story:

Some useful links on the bottom and in the comments….

I’d be curious to hear how the panel feels about scientists blogging about and/or otherwise promoting their own results. Does it help bring interesting things to your attention that you wouldn’t find otherwise, or is it competition you’d rather not have, or does it just make the science-interested public more confused? (And what characteristics of blogging by scientists determine the answer?) The one bad example I have in mind is Ida, the massive promotion of which made lots of people aware of a particular fossil find, but didn’t do much service to public understanding of human evolution. – Jeremy Yoder.

Some useful pieces from us, in preparation for the discussion:
Thanks for all the questions folks. Keep ‘em coming, and I’ll try to ensure that we cover as much of this ground as possible. In the meantime, check out some preparatory pieces that we’ve penned in advance of the session:
Adapting to the new ecosystem of science journalism
Who are the science journalists?
My God, It’s Full of Blogs
Rebooting (and funding) science journalism
Rebooting science journalism, redux
Considering the future of science journalism