Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lessons from a journalist

Sou | 5:42 PM Feel free to comment!
In the last couple of days a journalist has graced this little blog with his presence.  He was kind enough to give tips that surely will help any aspiring science journalist.

If you get an embargoed press release out of the blue - break the embargo.  No need to concern yourself about ethics.  More justification here.  (There might be consequences, but if you're an aspiring also-ran freelance journalist, who cares?)

An explanation of the journalist's job, with some examples: "A journalist's job is to provide information, context and analysis, not to just pass along information as if they're someone's message boy. It's naive to think otherwise."

Here is a brilliant example of "information, context and analysis".

Here's another example.  In writing about a study of scientific consensus, complain that it's not a study of something else - like providing the answer to life, the universe and everything.
The simple statement doesn't address questions like how much warming? What kind of warming (where)? How much are humans causing? How are they causing it? How well is this knowledge known? How good is the data? What are the consequences?
Very deep!  See?  Easy peasy - anyone can do it.  I'd caution that in trying to be controversial rather than informative if you miss instead of hit, you'll risk being seen as starting to head down this path.  For example, this is how the rest of the world saw that particular study:

IdiotTracker says it better - here and here.

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