Further reading on scientist-journalist communication

I’ve had a busy week (and an especially busy weekend–more on that in a later post), so today’s activity will again be sparse, but I have a lot on tap (now just to get it all typed up!) I do, however, want to highlight a few other posts you should read if you were interested in my post on the collision of scientists and journalists:

First, Mike’s post on the topic. As he notes, part of his job is to “deal with journalists,” so he has lots of good advice for those on both sides of the aisle.

Astroprof left a comment here on the article, and also elaborated on the topic in a post of his own, discussing problems that plague both scientists and science writers.

Likewise, Jennifer Ouellette left a comment here, and also added her two cents over at Cocktail Party Physics. Since she’s a writer, she offers a nice contrast to my perspective coming into interviews from the scientist side. I agree with pretty much everything she wrote, so I’ll just highlight one bit:

In short, the scientific community in general needs to be a bit more sophisticated about its attitude towards journalism — starting with gaining a clearer idea of how journalism actually works, and what its primarily objectives are (hint: they are not the same objectives as science). It is not, and never shall be, just like publishing in scientific journals.

I agree with her assessment, but I’d also re-emphasize that the science journalist needs to understand that distinction as well, and be sympathetic to and understanding of the scientist’s attitude and preconceptions. I think right now it seems many of us are just speaking foreign languages to each other, and a lot seems to be getting lost in translation.

She ends noting that:

If you don’t want to consent to interviews, that’s your prerogative. I, for one, am sympathetic to all the reasons Tara and her commenters discussed on her recent blog post. But on the flip side, you then forfeit your right to complain about poor science coverage — because (as I’ve said before in a prior post) you are a big part of the problem.

Again, I’m sympathetic. And apparently, I should note (because I’ve received a number of chiding emails!) that I’m in no way advocating *not* talking to the press. Though I did mention getting misquoted and being disappointed with stories I’ve been interviewed for, I can’t recall turning down an interview request (well, at least one that I’ve received prior to the reporter’s deadline–as I noted, I don’t get to all my voicemail as often as I probably should). Obviously I believe strongly in public outreach and bringing science to the masses, so I’m not advocating a boycott on journalists or anything. Heck, recently I’ve even done a bit of interviewing myself for some posts here and articles elsewhere, so I sympathize with the difficulties that come with trying to get in touch with people–and my only deadlines are self-imposed, so I’m not under that constraint. I’m not “down” on science journalism overall either, as Chad suggested–but of course I think there’s a lot of room for improvement and better understanding from all of us.

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