Challenges to Science Journalism

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In modern society, science and technology have become integrated into everyday life to a greater extent than ever before; consequently, it is no longer possible for science and society to be viewed as two separate entities which seldom converge (Meyer 240, LaFollette 7). This mutual inclusiveness fosters dependence, yet, because of the vast amounts of scientific data now available, it is increasingly difficult for individuals to have personal knowledge and understanding of the sciences and technologies which play such significant roles in their lives. However, it is not customary for scientists to communicate research discoveries directly to the public. Instead, this substantial responsibility is placed in the hands of the journalistic community, yet unfortunately there are many obstacles impeding good science journalism (Murcott and Williams 152). In fact, researcher Davida Charney posits that “[t]he very notions of accuracy and newsworthiness are at the heart of the conflict between scientists and journalists” (216). So what really are the roles and responsibilities of science journalists, and what are some of the subsequent incompatible values dividing the two communities? In my paper, I will argue that the public communication of science is more challenging than other forms of journalism due to the underlying conflict inherent to the relationship between scientists and journalists. I will examine two specific issues which hinder the accurate communication of scientific information; the sensationalism and commercialization of science which is promoted by science journalists, and the inaccessibility of the scientific community. Finally, I will consider some implications of poor science communication, and conc...

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...y (Riesch 771). This influence manifests itself in many different aspects of public life, from affecting which medical treatments individuals choose to seek to influencing their stance on controversial political topics such as climate change or nuclear energy; thus science journalism is an endeavor which entails significant ethical responsibilities, the most significant of which is striving for accuracy and appropriate contextualization. Additionally, through negatively impacting public opinion of science, bad science journalism has the potential to discourage private and government funding of research; it is for these reasons that science journalists are forced to bear the weight not only of the effect their writing will have on the public, but also the effect that the consequential public opinion of science will have on the scientific community (LaFollette 13).
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