22 July 1998
Date: 22 Jul 1998 07:45:46 From: email@example.com Subject: What's Wrong With the New York Times's Science Reporting To: Recipients of conference <firstname.lastname@example.org> At 11:11 AM 7/6/1998, email@example.com wrote: >"What's Wrong With the New York Times's Science Reporting?" Whatever the bad news, at least the good news is that there is Science Times reporting to complain about. Warts and all, the NYT seems to do more science reporting than any other half dozen papers put together. I will confess, however, that over time my interest in their reporting has declined, though not due to the issues cited in the Nation critique. The part that I have the problem with is not the slant of their science and public policy reporting, but rather with the declining proportion of their science reporting that has a public policy component ..... just check out any recent Tuesday, and see how few of the articles are "important" from either a science or a policy perspective, versus how many are a midly amusing read over a second cup of coffee before work. To me demographics is the problem... their market research is driving their editorial content > the NY Times' routine science >coverage is almost entirely of the "gee whiz!" variety, This is generically true: the science beat is just flat out the only beat on which there is only good news. Check out sports, business, weather, obits, entertainment reviews, whatever, in every other section of the paper good news is always defined in contrast to bad news, both of which get reported. Even the bad reporting of science policy has two sides, even if one doesn't like how they are presented. But in science there is only good news. Try selling a paper in which it never rains or all teams win or all businesses make buckets of money and no one ever gets fired and see how many copies you sell. But science is different, if not all the time at least far too often it seems that too many science reporters [generally not including the Science Times folks] seem to approach science reporting as happy news. There has been a rather substantial shift in the NYT coverage of this stuff and it is driven by the prevailing desparation to attract younger readers who the believe want happy news and soft features etc I say this without any particular insight into the specifics @NYT.com, but this is surely true with newspapers generally, and has powerful explanatory power of the evolution of the Science Times, even if the inside scoop is much more convoluted. Frankly, however, it is also the case that there just doesn't seem to be much heavy furniture being moved around on the science policy front generally these days, at least compared with five or ten years ago when there were major public policy issues that were hotly contested. The news media can report news, they can shape news, but there are limits to their ability to make news....... though I wish they would try @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ John Pike http://www.fas.org/ Federation of American Scientists 202-675-1023 307 Massachusetts Ave NE Washington, DC 20002 "It is by will alone I set my mind in motion"