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Reporting Science News

  • News reports of science should contain sufficient information for people to understand the findings and their implications. — InSciOut

Science news,

Almost time for Pluto's close-up, New York Times, July 7, 2015

  • Problem areas
    • Analysis of 193 scientists’ comments
      • Scientists assesd the accuracy of science news stories where they were cited as the major source
      • Led to several recommendations for improving objective reporting of science news
      • Source: Ryan, Michael & James Tankard, Problem Areas in Science News Reporting, 1973

  • Recommendations
    • Reporters should not rely solely on interviews and press releases
    • Avoid oversimplifying or exaggerating the lead
    • Cutting story from bottom may not apply if story must be complete to make sense

  • 9 ways scientists can help

    • 1. Watch what you release
    • 2. Reach out
      • Improve media relations
      • Become more aware of the pressures, complications and goals of each other’s profession

    • 3. Be there
      • Make time for interviews
      • Journalists will move on quickly
        • (News value: Timeliness)

    • 4.  Be prepared
      • Media training course
      • Common sense
      • Prepare key quotes before interviews
      • Ask non-experts to help recognize and eliminate jargon

    • 5. Think big
      • Accept that accuracy is relative
      • Shift mindset to the perspective of layperson
        • Question whether a detail or caveat is necessary to convey the broader importance of the work
          • For a vital caveat, be ready to explain clearly why it is part of the big picture (context)

    • 6. Think blog
      • Blogs may  be useful as extra resources for journalists.
        • If a journalist doesn't understand your press release or journal article and can't get you on the phone, they could refer to your blog for detail and FAQs.

    • 7. Make it public
      • Publishing in top journals puts science behind paywalls
      • Question ethics of withholding research results when publicly funded
      • Professors, we need you
    • 8. Watch your neighborhood
      • Challenge misreporting of your research and other work in your field
      • Challenge pseudoscience and exaggerated claims

    • 9. Get the facts
      • Report evidence, not just argument
    • From "Nine ways scientists can help improve science journalism," The Guardian, March 7, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2012/mar/07/scientists-help-improve-science-journalism  

  • Crisis in reporting science news
    • News portals — print, web & broadcasting — are laying off journalists, including science reporters
    • Independent science coverage is “dying”  – Robert Lee Hotz, Wall Street Journal, 2009.
    • More scientists are blogging with news of their work.
      • More commentary than reporting developments
      • Difficult for lay public to follow
      • Hard to find