An Endangered Species: Science Journalism

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

While the 2:14 video didn’t divulge much in terms of details, it pressed on a topic that was near and dear to my journalistic heart: science reporting.

Peter Lewis on the state of science journalism.

Peter Lewis, a Knight fellow, former New York Times tech writer, and proud maker of the nytimes.com domain name, is working on building a model that creates a generation of science journalists ready to report in-depth on a plethora of technology, health, and environmental issues.

Lewis, who had originally to set out to find an alternate business model for the sagging journalism industry, has since shifted his focus away from “reinventing the wheel” to finding a way to “revive the idea of robust science journalism with a focus on the environment.”

In a world where technology dictates every facet of our lives and climate change is a household word, it’s hard to believe that science journalism wouldn’t be catching on like fire.

“It turns out that science journalism is one of the most endangered species in an overall industry that’s in turmoil right now,” Lewis said of the need for knowledgeable science reporters.

One of my many far-reaching journalistic aspirations is to be a science reporter that specializes in the environment (this is supposed to happen somewhere in between being an international correspondent and an investigative reporter).

All too often I see science journalism abstracted into ideological debates that are unfounded in the roots of the scientific inquiry. At the same time, I’ll be the first to admit that I am unqualified to become a science reporter.

Not only for the geek-inclined.

In the minds of many, science journalism still remains a niche field, relegated to specialty magazines like Wired.com for the tech-geek, or Popular Science for the general geek. In its purest form, science journalism becomes too unsavory and too dry and technical for the average reader to comprehend.

“It doesn’t relate to me” is a general complaint I hear from people in relation to why the Science Times section ends up in the wastebasket.

But in my experience, science is about as human as it gets. Nothing has a greater ability to link us to one another than a story about DNA and evolution. Nothing is more distressing to read than a large-scale community ravaged by natural disaster. And few things are more frustrating to read about than humanity fouling its own nest.

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