Journalists take a lot of flak these days.
For every article bravely shipped to an editor, journos risk a volley from Joe Audience, Jane Stakeholder and even fellow colleagues. Some criticism is well-deserved and well-put. The rest of it is any combination of uninformed, nonconstructive and downright mean.
I lack the institutional knowledge of my, er, “finely aged” colleagues (by no fault of my baby-faced self), but it seems to me that the anonymity, immediacy and searchability of the ‘net has lubricated the delivery of such criticism. In a not-so-great way.
Thus, it’s with great relief that I recently see not one but two very well-crafted criticisms of journalism. The first is Alexis Madrigal’s artful response to a recent Wired magazine piece, the second a review of “The Seven Deadly Sins Of Science Journalism” by Jonathan Parkinson at Science 2.0.
For this post I’m sticking to the latter piece, since it echoes some of the elements of Madrigal’s critique (e.g. sensationalism, oversimplification, getting it wrong, etc.). Also, some would argue the Wired.com blowup isn’t really about science journalism — and this is a sciencey blog, for crissakes!
If you’re too pressed for time, here’s Parkinson’s cardinal list:
- Sensationalized reporting
- Over-reliance on press releases
- Detail-free reporting
- Oversimplifying/getting it wrong
- Appeal to authority and cheerleading
- Overworked cliches
I think it’s an extremely valid set of criticisms. But it’s a little light on constructive guidelines for my tastes.
Hence, therefore, I offer you ten commandments of science journalism! (more…)