Science journalists: megaphones or watchdogs?
A recurrent theme at WCSJ2019 was the role of science journalists—megaphones or watchdogs? During the opening session, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Deborah Blum pushed back on the notion that science journalists should act as a communication bridge between scientists and the public.
“Science journalism is not science promotion,” she said. Blum emphasized that the goal of science journalists is to analyze how science works and provide an independent view of what it can and cannot accomplish. Throughout the conference, speakers have highlighted the regulatory function of science journalism by discussing how to report on scientific fraud, tackle investigative projects on corporate misconduct, and critically evaluate big technological innovations. During one of the closing sessions, Niall Firth, News Editor at MIT Technology Review, reminded the audience that the goal of science journalists is not to help translate for scientists or educate the public, but to ask (sometimes hard) questions and get to the bottom of the stories they're after. Science journalism, Firth said, hasn’t got anything to do with science communication. “It’s about how you approach your subject,” he said.
That’s a message that science journalists should keep in mind when thinking about stories, reporting, and writing.
Opinions expressed in the blog posts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of WCSJ2019