Scientific Journalism: A Dying Art

We know a lot of “stuff.” Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds named their daughter James; Gwen Stefani might be pregnant with Blake Shelton’s baby; Kim Kardashian was married for 72 days.

But why don’t more people understand Einstein’s theory of relativity or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle? Ultimately, the public’s ignorance about important scientific information is the product of the media.

In their article, “Unpopular Science,” Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum address the alarming decline in scientific journalism that has occurred in the last thirty (or so) years. The writers state that “Policy moves . . . helped foster mass media conglomeration. . .serious science journalism often fared poorly in this climate,” (“Unpopular Science”). Here’s the problem: newspapers and other forms of mass media have become totally profit based, meaning that journalists have to print what people will pay to read. Sadly, we live in a society in which people prefer to read about Kim Kardashian’s love life rather than new medical and scientific discoveries.

“But we have science BLOGS!” A chorus of Americans reply. But that’s not enough. My 73 year old grandmother doesn’t really KNOW how to navigate the internet, and even if she DID find a blog, it could be completely biased. It might say that the world is flat or that climate change is just a government conspiracy. Many are concerned that there are just too many “niches” in the “blogosphere” for people to become properly informed.

The former director of CNN’s science, technology, and environment unit is quoted as saying, “Press releases and blogs will not find the same broad audience once served by the mass media,” (“Science Journalism: Supplanting the Old Media”). That’s also true. Unless I have the motivation to hop on my computer and surf the web for an informative and credible source, I’m just going to bask in my ignorant glory.

These problems with scientific journalism are MORE than applicable to climate change; in fact, they’re at the very root of the problem. If the public wishes to do anything to stop climate change, they need to become infinitely less ignorant about what’s happening to our planet. However, members of the government who support making SOME kind of effort to help the environment need to understand that the American people lacks the motivation to seek out the correct information. Therefore, the only effective way to get people to actually understand the magnitude of the situation may be to spoon feed them the information through some sort of government sponsored media.

“Well that sounds like a waste of money!” replied the thousands of people who deny that climate change is even happening. But it’s not. One of the most productive ways which many interest groups accomplish their goals is through grassroots movement, consider this dissemination of information to be the catalyst to a great environmental movement. If we can simply make more people understand how dangerous our inadvertent over-consumption is for the future of our planet.

Sources:

https://edge.org/response-detail/23711

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090318/full/458274a.html

http://www.thenation.com/article/unpopular-science/

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