Rennie urges changes in science journalism

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In the Guardian, former Scientific American editor in chief John Rennie adds his two cents to the meta discussion of science blogging that has grown out of ScienceOnline2011. Rennie’s hope is that the emergence of science blogs and readers’ access to press releases will force mainstream sources to fix their “systemic faults.”

By my reading, Rennie’s key peeve is the “new” part of “news.” As anybody who has attended a few AHCJ conference sessions could tell you, science is incremental. It doesn’t lend itself to big splashy one-time headlines. Yet, seduced by embargoes and journal publication cycles, science journalism doesn’t follow the same plodding path.

Rennie’ s column suggests that’s where the Internet comes in. With journal and university press releases already directly available to the lay audience online, science bloggers are forced to find ways to differentiate themselves from the news cycle. And those ways, Rennie hopes, include long-term reporting and follow-up stories. These days, identical stories and blog posts are just a click away, as the cliche goes, and publications can’t afford to crank out “interchangeable” content.

5 thoughts on “Rennie urges changes in science journalism

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  2. Elaine Schattner, MD

    Rennie’s got a point that many blogs (and newspapers) tend to cover the same health stories, simultaneously. Often I’m surprised by what gets featured in numerous stories, sometimes after publication in an obscure journal, and what doesn’t get mentioned at all.

    This tendency limits the public’s awareness of findings that journalists overlook.

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