Bora Zivkovic
Why good science journalists are rare? -
"Science coverage in New York Times is good because they can afford a whole stable of people, each expert in one field only. If Carl Zimmer was forced to cover, on a daily basis and without time to research, everything from astronomy and physics to archaeology and materials science, he would do a bad job, too. But he is given time to pick his own area - evolution - to study it for years, and to write whatever the heck he wants on any given week. So Carl is an expert on what he is writing." - Bora Zivkovic
How about when newspapers finally up and die? We'll all get our news from Rush and Atrios. - iTad
Why are good journalists rare? - Eric P
Good journalism requires expertise. And good journalists are moving to the Web. It is the paper that will be gone, not journalism. And journalism will be done faster and better than ever. But the filtering of quality will have to come after, not before (editors) the publication. - Bora Zivkovic
And post-filter is better than the pre-filter? - pn
I think so. Not always, but it has a much bigger pool to chose from, and in most cases the community will make wiser decisions than a single editor. Even if not, this is the way it is now, so we have to perfect our post-publication filtering tools: part technological, part social solutions. - Bora Zivkovic
@Paulo, it has to be, right? - j1m
Yes, you can eliminate paid-reports that looks like news, but at the same time you can incur on creating strongholds based on very dubious or inaccurate information, eg MMR. - pn
Yes, that is the problem. From what I have seen so far, the number of people peddling crap tends to be smaller than the number of people who prefer the reality, thus, even if it takes some time and effort, correct information floats to the top. - Bora Zivkovic
People tend to follow the paths that interest them. Science buffs go into science, journalists into journalism. Does anyone study science with the idea that someday they're going to write about this for the mass media? It's takes a learned person to write well about science. - Jack&Cleo
More and more so, as there are hardly any jobs (or money) left in the traditional academic tenure-track path. Science writing/journalism is now a serious option. - Bora Zivkovic
I don't think journalism will survive as a separate profession. It will merge with other professions. I consider scientists who blog often more credible than science reporters. They might be a bit biased, but you can learn to filter that. I kind of had it with classic newspaper reporting. - Meryn Stol
How many scientists can make a living from science blogging? Currently, there are many, many more jobs for scientists in the "traditional academic tenure-track path" and the traditional academic non-tenure-track path. - The Neurocritic
"If a newspaper/magazine and a large net of bloggers could strike a deal, that would benefit everyone. Seed did. Others should do the same." - How many of the ScienceBloggers can replace their day jobs with blogging? Is it a viable profession for more than 5 people? - The Neurocritic
But if journalism as a profession does not survive and becomes a side-aspect of many other jobs, then why are we even asking about money? - Bora Zivkovic
Because you said "It is the paper that will be gone, not journalism" and that expert scientist/blogger types are most qualified to become the new science journalists. - The Neurocritic
A newly-minted Ph.D. goes on the job market. Will he/she have more success finding a post-doc position or a science writing/blogging position? - The Neurocritic
Neither, these days. Teaching at a small college or high school is more likely. - Bora Zivkovic
I am not exactly sure what point are you trying to make? Every faculty position has 200-1000 candidates. The rest? They'll do other jobs. Likewise, with newspapers folding left and right, of course there are no jobs in science journalism. Bloggers make themselves, do not need job ads. How does it all relate to my post, i.e., about the Quality (not quantity) of science journalism? - Bora Zivkovic
If it is the paper that is gone, not journalism, does not mean that journalism will remain a paid profession, a job. It will exist in a different form. - Bora Zivkovic
Also, there is a difference between, e.g., investigative journalism and expertise (including science) journalism. The two will probably assume very different forms in the future. We tend to fuse them in our minds because we are so used to seeing both in the newspaper. - Bora Zivkovic
Bora, my point is not that science journalism is blog certainly speaks for itself in that regard. Instead, my point is that even if "bloggers make themselves," what employer is going to read a blog and say, "YOU should be the new science writer at our publication!!" It's easier to become a post-doc or an industry scientist or yes, even a tenure-track prof than to become the next Carl Zimmer (or the next Bora Zivkovic, for that matter). - The Neurocritic
Also, nobody denies overproduction of PHDs and postdocs. Money is being slashed and too many scientists are being made. The big STOP sign is at the level of getting the first academic job after a postdoc (thus postdoc ads are irrelevant to this discussion). As tenure-tracks was for years deemed to be the only Right Way for a scientist, but it is not feasible now, new trainees are all given information about potential employment in other spheres - from congressional advisers, to teachers to journalists. - Bora Zivkovic
My post never denied, actually highlighted the lack of jobs for professional science journalists. Thus, the job will have to be done (as there is thirst for information) by us amateurs, as a side-job. - Bora Zivkovic
Oh, so the profession of science journalism should be taken over by expert volunteers who can find the time after teaching 5 classes at 3 separate community colleges every day? - The Neurocritic
Yes. That's the uncomfortable fact. I am glad you used the word "volunteer" as it is the key. - Bora Zivkovic
I don't see where in your post you used the term "unpaid volunteer" science blogger/writer/journalist. - The Neurocritic
Newspapers are folding, journalists are being laid off left and right. Often science reporters are the first to go. But there is a need for scientific information. It will be fulfilled by volunteer experts, at least until new forms of online journalism figure out a business model that can actually pay. - Bora Zivkovic
Because the original post was about quality of journalism, not about jobs/money/business side at all. Somehow this FF thread veered off on that tangent. - Bora Zivkovic
"Science coverage in New York Times is good because they can afford a whole stable of people, each expert in one field only." - this is not about money? - The Neurocritic
OK, OK, it's time for this expert volunteer to return to my 60 hr a week day job of running experiments, analyzing data, writing papers, etc. - The Neurocritic
NYTimes is just the last one standing. They'll be bankrupt in a year or two as well. The example of NYT was not about money, but about a necessity of distributed science journalism if one wants quality - a diversity of expertise. - Bora Zivkovic
IMHO, bloggers need journalists and vice versa, they don't have the same function. I agreed with many of both your points and would love to see more fleshed-out views written up in your blogs. Meanwhile, David Dobbs provides the best and most balanced view of this issue I've yet seen. - sanki
Bloggers don't want to and cannot replace journalists. But some bloggers will become journalists, and all journalists will have to become bloggers (in a sense) as the news move from paper to Web. The distinction will be blurred for a while, and nobody has any idea how any of that will earn anyone any money. In the meantime, voluntary efforts will have to fill the vacuum. - Bora Zivkovic
There is a third option nobody's brought up, perhaps because F/T journalists and scientists alike dismiss them all as potential cranks (if so, let's explore why). Pyjama journalists & bloggers. There are many. They are people not employed as scientists or journalists but who do have knowledge of a subject, time & inclination to do plenty of dogged research, and who are okay - for now - with earning nothing, or a pittance as pro bloggers. - sanki
If blogging was a truly democratic and level-playing-field medium, those bloggers would not be excluded from elitist science blogging clubs. - sanki
I am not sure I understand....what elitist science blogging clubs? We were talking all along about the (pyjama) bloggers/journalists who will do it for little or free as MSM dies, until (and if) a new business model arises that actually pays for it. As part of their hobby, or academic outreach, or for small honoraria, as freelancers, or as parts of 'stables' of writers. - Bora Zivkovic
It's a subtle distinction, maybe I misunderstood your meaning, Bora. I'm referring to pyjama bloggers who don't have day jobs as scientists. - sanki
oh, blogging networks? I don't see networks getting into this as a whole. Networks are collections of independent individuals, who chose whatever the heck they want to do. We were talking about blogging scientists wherever they are online and offline, in or out of networks (I know, you missed that session at ScienceOnline09 - it is surprising how many people need to be told about individual independence).. - Bora Zivkovic
I was thinking about new journalistic outlets keeping some people to cover science for them. HuffPo is atrocious (and no scientist wants to join as long as Chopra and RFK Jr are on there), and others are not big enough yet (perhaps Slate, Salon?). Replicating NYT model online. - Bora Zivkovic
Sanki's point I believe was that blogging networks like ScinceBlogging are sometimes elitist and require scientific background as a prerequisite; that sometimes excludes pyjama journalists who might not be working scientists but have still somehow developed expertise.I am ambivalent about my opinion on the same; as noted in comments to the original post, science journalists come from more diverse fields than pure science background; while science blogging networks are more 'traditional' and require degrees - Sandeep Gautam has no prerequisites and not everyone there has a scientific background. Where did that myth come from? - Bora Zivkovic
so to deviate a bit from the main line of the original post; good bloggers should come together and join with newspapers for good science coverage, but making the activity elitist (only working scientist-blogger ) would surely backfire. We need a mix of 'traditional' scientists and 'self-learned' experts as part of that alternate to MSM. - Sandeep Gautam
Yes. That was the point. - Bora Zivkovic
Writing a newspaper article is a different skillset than writing a journal article. Information in journal articles may be inaccessible (in many different senses of the word) to the general public. What you need is either a deep collaboration between the journalist and the scientists, or a discoverable "cloud" of linkages, commentary and explanation around the article - which to some extent is what science blogs do, but with limited discoverability for the general public. - Richard Akerman
I trust you have all seen the Guardian's Bad Science Column. A must read: - Chris Keene
I heard of someone who went into college intending to become a science writer and designed her own major. It included pretty much every writing class and every intro science class she could fit. - bentley
If you have the freedom to do it. But see: and - Bora Zivkovic
Check out also the podcast (once it's up) and comments here: - Bora Zivkovic