More Scientific Journalism is a Necessity

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Food, Fuel & Society: Stories of a Changing Landscape" was the name of the Symposium held at University of Missouri on Tuesday, October 12th to discuss Science Journalism. Ira Flatow, a radio and television journalism who hosts National Public Radio's Science Friday, was the keynote speaker for the event.

Lasting all day and broadcasted online and by many Midwest radio stations, this Symposium discussed topics such as agriculture production, food and fuel issues and immigrant farm workers.
These are all issues that Flatow would typically talk about on Science Friday, which always focuses on science, technology, environmental and health issues.

According to a study, the public wants to see more science in the news. Science Friday has over 73,000 followers on their Twitter page, over 14,000 Facebook fans, over 1.5 million subscribers to their podcasts and a website with high traffic.
There numbers demonstrate that there are people wanting and receiving scientific news. However, there are a few problems that make it difficult to include science in the media.

1. ) Science is being ignored
Many stations and newspapers are eliminating science coverage because of the total complications with including it. For example, in 2009 the Boston Globe completely eliminated it's scientific coverage.

2.) Science is often "dumbed down"
Many scientific facts are not common knowledge and it can be difficult for the average person to grasp some scientific facts. Media outlets want to entertain, not educate, so science news is being shared in simpler terms that don't get the point across instead of being fully explained.

3.) Poor communication
There are not enough scientists sharing their facts and knowledge with those writing. Journalists can't write stories about something they know nothing about, and it's hard to dig up true scientific facts to accurately report. Scientists and journalists must learn to further collaborate.

These problems may be hard to overcome, but it's crucial that we do so. Bill Allen of Missouri School of Journalism says that student journalists need to get out and understand the importance and complexity of scientific topics and learn how to effectively relay them to the public.

Flatow agreed by saying, "If you teach people to be good story tellers, they can tell a story about anything and make it interesting- even science."


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