[ASC-list] What is science journalism - further discussion

Susan Kirk skirk at iprimus.com.au
Mon Jul 15 00:03:14 UTC 2013

You nailed it Niall.


Susan Fairbairn (nee Kirk)   B.comm  freelance Journalist
Member and Queensland Web Editor -  Australian Science Communicators (ASC)
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³If you don¹t ask the right questions you won¹t get the right answers.²

> It's been an interesting discussion about what's journalism.
> But it's tended to focus on what we think of our own writing.
> So for me it's simple.
> If you're being paid by the scientists or the government then it's not
> journalism - it's science writing, science communication, PR etc.
> It's not about your intent, it's about how the audience perceives your status.
> You may write in a journalistic style, you may subscribe to journalistic
> ethics, you may be a member of the union. But if you're funded by the subject
> of your writing (in the broadest sense) then it's not journalism.
> We discussed this at the science journalists conference in Helsinki. No one's
> pure. We all move along the spectrum.
> Here are a few rough notes I made in advance of the session.
> It gets confusing. Some university information officers think they doing
> journalism - they're not, even if they've trained as journalists.
> Magazine editors are journalists, but when they're talking up their cover
> story to sell magazines then that's PR.
> Science film makers are journalists - until they're selling their film on the
> talk show circuit.
> Information officers talking to school children probably aren't doing pr. But
> when they're talking to politicians then they are.
> And when big pharma issue a media release it's usually pr, but not always,
> sometime  it's public interest information.
> I always try to write in a journalistic style, but I'm not a journalist,
> except when I'm writing for Nature - then I think I am a journalist, or at
> least doing a journalistic job.
> Fundamentally it comes down to following the money - who is paying the bills.
> And then to the quality and ethics of the practitioner.
> If you're paid by the publisher and the subject has no editorial approval -
> that is journalism. Your reader expects you to report without fear or favour.
> If you're paid by CERN to write for the public about the Higgs boson then it
> is science communication - the connection between your writing and future
> funding of CERN is remote.
> If you're paid by a university then it's science communication, PR or
> marketing depending on the linkage with student recruitment.
> I'd argue that the science is a little different to other rounds.
> It's fundamentally different to say, politics or business reporting.
> Good science reporting, good communication and good science PR are all built
> on an evidence base and there are usually no commercial interests.
> That's a sweeping generalisation. Science journalists still need to be
> sceptical, medical journalists more so.
> ________
> Niall Byrne
> Creative Director, Science in Public
> Watching Spitfires today - beautiful engineering that, together with radar
> saved Britain.
> Bioinformatics tomorrow at EBI
> I'm in Europe until 17 July for the World Conference of Science Journalists
> and other events.
> Contact me by email or skype or via the office, +61 3 9398-1416.
> All mobile phone messages go to skype
> niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
> Twitter scienceinpublic
> Skype niall_byrne
> www.scienceinpublic.com.au<http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/>
> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
> [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Bianca Nogrady
> Sent: Friday, 12 July 2013 4:04 PM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> Subject: Re: [ASC-list] further to recent list conversations
> And while we're at it, here's an interesting article from the New York Times
> about the difference between 'journalist' and 'activist', which I think has
> relevance to this discussion:
> http://nyti.ms/13SKZnN
> This phrase struck a chord with me: "The notion of journalist as political and
> ideological eunuch seems silly, even to some who call themselves journalists."
> b


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