As newspapers shrink, fold or migrate entirely to the Internet, what will happen to science journalism? Like other topics, coverage is becoming fractured and the likelihood that the public will find meaningful and important stories as readily as before is uncertain, at best, according to an interesting
A survey by the publication of 493 science journalists shows that jobs are being lost and the workloads of those who remain are on the rise – 18.5 percent reported their workloads have increased dramatically. At the same time, researcher-run blogs and Web sites are growing in both number and readership. Moreover, traditional journalists are increasingly looking to these sites to find story ideas, although there’s also an increasing reliance on press releases and public relations machines.
“Whether directly or indirectly, scientists and the institutions at which they work are having more influence than ever over what the public reads about their work,” according to the Nature story. That’s because press releases and blogs, typically, can’t reach the same widespread audiences as mainstream media. However, some bloggers are gaining a wider audience. One example is Derek Lowe, a Vertex Pharmaceuticals scientist who writes the “In the Pipeline” blog and columns for The Atlantic.
Whether such sites can compensate, at least in part, for the upheaval appears unlikely, according to one traditional journalist. Peter Dykstra, who was executive producer of CNN’s science, technology, environment and weather unit before it was closed down last year, and is now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, worries that the flow of information is forever changed. Science and environment news, he tells Nature, will be “ghettoized and available only to those who choose to seek it out.”
In a related editorial, Nature urges scientists to change old attitudes and “recognize the contributions of bloggers and others, and they should encourage any and all experiments that could help science better penetrate the news cycle.”