The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lost in Translation

I've written before about the problem of science journalism from the scientist's perspective. Here's a report on a physics colloquium at USC on the same topic, but from the journalist's perspective.

One interesting point is that the news media require an article to be "news" and science just isn't about making news in general. Almost any study builds upon earlier work, and new results are incremental. But a newspaper article needs a flashy headline and lede, so every study is a breakthrough. Worse, the publication of some study today doesn't mean that anything in particular happened on 27 March 2006. The research was completed months ago, and possibly took years to do. But the newspaper article has to take the perspective that something happened, which distorts the whole thing. Until the editors can get their heads around this distinction, science journalism will continue to be insipid.


Blogger Sir Stevalot said...

What about journals like Scientific American and Popular Science? These are wiiiicked. Also what is your stance on science fiction?

2:15 p.m., July 06, 2006  
Blogger The Observer said...

Scientific American I haven't read in any depth in years, and Popular Science rarely if ever. That said, SA at least, is targetting a different sort of audience than the daily press. The long articles, at least, are written by the scientists themselves, so they tend to have a lot less sensationalizing.

3:58 p.m., July 07, 2006  

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