My Friday Love: David Brown on “What’s Wrong (and Right) with Science Journalism”

I dropped out of journalism school. I was accepted to two Degree Programs at the New Zealand School of Journalism at the age of 18. And I dropped out very quickly. I couldn’t sleep at night. I wanted to communicate, I wanted to really understand the details of events and the way our society was changing. I wanted to share important things with people who wouldn’t otherwise know it. Knowledge is power.

But I did not want to get excited about the latest political gaff, angry middle-class angst, or celebrity baby. So I thought I didn’t want to be a journalist. I went and got a Science (!?!?) Degree. I got a brilliant Science degree, learned all about cells and species, about evolution and ecosystems, and finally about global environmental change and sustainable development.

So I am a scientist because now I see the world like a scientist. But it turns out I do want to be a Journalist. It turns out it is important to communicate about science ideas, and to really understand the details of events in science communities and the way science is changing our society. It’s important to share science with those people who don’t otherwise get to understand.

Dan Brown wrote about this, kind of, in this article.

He Says: “An opportunity for journalism? I hear some of you ask. Who cares about opportunities for journalism? Well, I think we should all care about the future health and quality of this particular business. It is, like it or not, the disposable addition to our education that either lands on the doorstep, or pops up on the computer screen, every day.

But journalism is more than just a business and more than just a continuing education course. It is something that both reflects the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, and can shape it. Good journalism can make public discourse more honest and less oversimplified, more dominated by logical thinking and less dominated by rhetoric.

Good journalism can do this. And science journalism can lead the way. At least that’s the argument I will make.”

It’s the evidence inherent in science that makes for powerful journalism. Present the evidence as evidence – unbiased, substantiated, weighted, accurate – the opinion is the second part. Good Journalism is about giving someone the right evidence. And as a scientist I know about evidence, and hypothesis. And conjecture.

If we can pursue journalism based on evidence and data – and presenting that truly and fairly and accurately – then we are much further towards the ultimate result: giving those outside the information and the context to think effectively about their own world. Herman Daly, the Ecological Economist says that in a democracy, the distribution of education and information is more important than the distribution of power. I agree. Maybe I can be a journalist after all.

David Brown thinks it’s important anyway:

“In this new world, science reporting—done without exaggeration, and with an eye to giving the reader enough information to make up his own mind—can be a model for intelligent discourse. It can be an exercise in truth-telling and democracy. And what could be better than that?”

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One thought on “My Friday Love: David Brown on “What’s Wrong (and Right) with Science Journalism”

  1. Pingback: Science+Journalist = how do I explain this? | Mis J P Moves Things & the EcoArchive

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