Culture clash: Science vs. Journalism

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/06/28/am-i-a-science-journalist/

This article addresses the rift between science blogging and science journalism from an interesting perspective. The writer considers himself both a science journalist and a science blogger, an apparent contradiction that is refuted by the fact that science blogging can be useful and respectable when it is done using proper journalistic practices (fact-checking, etc.) My question is, “Do you think science blogging exists on the same level as scientific journalism? Do you think these two mediums are more similar or different from each other?”

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11 Responses to “Culture clash: Science vs. Journalism”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. It reminded me of an essay I read for my Writing 220 and English 225 classes called “Why I Blog” in which the author, Andrew Sullivan similarly argues that new media writing (i.e. blogging) is not meant to serve as a replacement for traditional journalism, but rather that the two feed off and supplement each other; Ed Yong writes “this new technique doesn’t replace the old, but it does complement and enhance it”.

    “Why I Blog” can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/11/why-i-blog/307060/?single_page=true

    To answer your first question: Sullivan would probably say that science blogging and scientific journalism are innately different kinds of writing and cannot be compared to one another. Me? I’m more partial to Yong’s argument; I say that the distinguishing lines between blogging and journalism are becoming increasingly blurred, and it’s up to the writer to decide which values and techniques they wish to uphold, and how they want to categorize themselves and their writing.

    Ed Yong said it best,

    “We live in a world full of stories, about amazing people doing amazing things and terrible people doing terrible things. I will use every medium I can to tell those stories. I will try to tell them accurately so people aren’t misled. I will try to tell them well so people will listen. If people want to argue about what to call that, that’s fine for them.

    I would rather just do it.”

  2. I found this article really interesting because I never really thought about journalists writing scientific articles in blogs. I think the author made a strong point when he said that blogs are one of the many mediums that people can use to write about their ideas. This statement would put give blogs the same recognition as scientific journalism. However, he also mentions that there are many different kinds of writers on blogs – those that can write and those that may just use blogs as a casual resource to share their ideas.

    This brings me to your question: “Do I think that science blogging exists on the same level as scientific journalism?” I would have to say no because blogging can be used for many things and are not limited to the sort of academic writing style I would expect from scientific journalism. Some blogs are written informally, and not all of the information may not be correct, so they can lose credibility.

    However, I do think that these two mediums are more similar to each other because they both serve the same purpose: to write about science. Although science blogs and scientific journalism may differ in medium and style, the information they contain are similar.

  3. When I think of “blogging”, I do not automatically associate it with journalism. Bloggers have complete freedom to write about whatever they want, whenever they want, and to whichever audience they want to. Journalists on the other hand, work for a large company, and therefore must uphold the company’s general identity and schedule. Despite those restrictions, articles written by a well-known journalism company, do have more credibility in my eyes. I feel that they have more influence and more resources to be able to get the most accurate information. However, blogs seem to have a more personal touch, and often seem to have more of a “tell it like it is” style of writing. This could be very effective for educating the public about complex yet important scientific news. I have no experience with either so I really just speak from what springs to mind when I speak of each. But that is still interesting because my own opinions may be shared by the general public. So I personally trust the information of an official scientific journalist more than a scientific blogger. However, when I compare what science bloggers and science journalists do, I completely agree that it is exactly the same thing, and I agree with Ed Yong that arguing about it is absolutely pointless. So I think that bloggers may be thought of as “less” than official journalists right now, but that scientific blogs can still be a credible source of information.

  4. I agree that science blogging can be performed in a respectable way that display journalistic practices, and are a medium that relay information in an ever-expanding field. Blogging is a way for any individual who has a passion for the science field to discuss what fascinates them, which I think is a great similarity between blogging and journalism. I think a passion and interest for the material is a requirement for scientific journalism, and I think blogging also shares this feature. So therefore, I do believe that scientific blogging and journalism are more similar to each other. However, even though the actual act of scientific blogging may be gaining more credibility, I think the public idea of blogging is below the level of scientific blogging. I believe that blogging has this common notion of unqualified individuals expressing their views on subjects that may or may not be correct. They don’t have the academic standing supporting them. So I don’t think that scientific journalism and blogging exist on the same level until the public opinion of blogging changes.

  5. I tend to agree with Youg’s argument in that with modern journalism, there is no black and white, but rather many shades of gray, or as Youg’s describes it: a spectrum. Modern journalism comes in all shapes and sizes, and the technologies and innovations that we have access to now make it much easier for anyone to go out, find out more about what is interesting to them, and present it to a larger audience. I do, however, believe that journalism must be investigative and provide new or relevant information. Still, whether this information is presented on a personal blog, Youtube, CNN, or The New York Times does not really matter. We should not be concerned with small, technical details such as where the information is being presented but rather the content of the articles or news pieces themselves.

  6. No, I do not think that science blogging exists on the same level as scientific journalism. Why? Because the incredible amount of travel abroad blogs that I see on my Facebook newsfeed and forever tarnished the legitimacy of blogs in general. Anyone can blog. Yong writes how, “When I write for my blog, I do so in exactly the same way as I would for a mainstream organisation. I ask whether stories are worth telling. I interview and quote people. I write in plain English. I provide context. I fact-check… a lot.” I have no doubt there are many blogs out there like Yong’s, that deserve some credibility and are created with a high level of professionalism. I would also say that in general, bloggers don’t take as much care as Yong does in writing their blogs. As a result, to me, an article written by a journalist is much more credible. As a reader I assume these stories are picked carefully, investigated more thoroughly, and backing by a news company certainly gives them more merit. A journalist has my trust. I more easily take the facts and stories they present as truth. I have been conditioned to approach blogs with more skepticism. For these reasons I believe science journalism and science blogging are on completely different levels.

  7. I have never thought much about the difference between science blogging and science journalism. Instead of focusing my efforts on labeling a type of writing, I have concentrated on the quality of writing. Why can’t science blogging be synonymous with science journalism? We criticize blogs because it is a medium that anyone can access. I argue that science blogging will revitalize journalism. How incredible is it that everyone, despite his or her circumstances or place in this world, has the ability to report on scientific matters?

    Yong writes, “We live in a world full of stories, about amazing people doing amazing things and terrible people doing terrible things. I will use every medium I can to tell those stories. I will try to tell them accurately so people aren’t misled.” Yong’s goal is one shared by both bloggers and journalists. The point of writing a post, whether it is for an independent blog or for a distinguished newspaper, stems from the desire to spread the truth and expose an audience to a worthwhile story. It is difficult to obtain objectivity, and as long as blogs address their personal aspect, I believe that they can be on par with science journalism.

  8. I wonder whether most consumers of scientific information distinguish between journalism and blogging. I’m going to assume most consumers of scientific “journalism” are curious and fairly well-informed. They’ll quickly assess whether a blogger or a journalist is offering sound information or simply bloviating. Those bloggers (and poor journalists) who don’t report on scientific issues well will be quickly dismissed by most of the potential audience. Yes, there will be some readers/listeners/viewers who’ll believe anything despite lack of factual reporting, but that’s always been true.

    I’ve been a journalist working in legacy media for a long time, but I’ve seen some wonderful journalism committed by bloggers. And scientists who blog are sometimes (as the piece noted) really great writers. The lines are permanently blurred and I think they always have been blurred. Trust, but verify. Pick your sources for information carefully based on the soundness of their past reporting.

  9. Journalism, like almost every other industry, is in a state of transition. As our world is changing in the midst of internet fueled globalization, bureaucracies are being challenged and replaced with meritocracies. This is a predictable transition because with global interaction, people – and in this case journalists – are able to do what they love without the burden of unfair, unwanted involvement from bureaucratic institutions that previously held the golden egg that allowed them to communicate with the general public.
    Due to the intrinsically free nature of blogging, the industry will continue to be populated with an increasing number of low quality, unsubstantiated and largely irrelevant writers. But at the same time, premier writers have access to the global meritocracy of blogalism (journalism + blogging), where they are rewarded for their written achievements. I think many more writers will see the merit in this industry and choose the path to the blogalism over the classic professional path to becoming a journalist. As globalization continues and more power is placed in the hands of the consumers, there will be a higher demand for quality, freelance blogalism. I think that scientific journalism and blogging are already nearly the same, but as globalization continues, we will see the rise of the independent, syndicated scientific blogalist, and the convergence of the industries as a whole.

  10. I think the author does a very good job of pointing out how close-minded it is to draw up “defensive cordons” against science-bloggers being referred to as journalists. A blog is just as capable of accomplishing the same tasks as a professional news source with the right writers and resources. Which one has the greater effect on the reader relies upon the way it is written and whether the story is relatable. As a science major, I believe that it is necessary to be able to write accurately because a science blog written by a research scientist provides reliable information from a primary source, the same way journalism does. I think these two mediums are very similar and while I do not think they fall under the same category, they absolutely “complement and enhance” each other.

  11. Journalism and blogs are two different genres that can have equal quality, credibility, and contributions to the public—not limited to telling the news, but as media–separately and in tandem. I disagree with “mlauk’s” polarity that bloggers’ have “complete freedom” and journalists write for “large companies” because bloggers and journalists alike choose their audience and field—freelance or not. And even in this exploration, here, there are exceptions to the following generalizations.

    Good journalism is time-sensitive but will, like a blog, do so in a “sharing” way. It is more about news. Journalism, with exceptions (InsideClimateNews), may be slower to break a controversial story because of that.

    Blogs are less time-sensitive. They share information that is unknown but not always new more often than they report brand new information. A blog can be newsy but may do so for a personal story or opinion about current topics rather than solely reporting about them. For credibility, favorite vlog as a paradigm credible blog. SciShow educates viewers about whatever interests them, but they do it using authoritative and credible sources with fact checks and citations. http://www.youtube.com/user/scishow

    Let’s revisit these opinions after participating in both media in May.

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