A Blog Around The Clock

Tomorrow’s Nature has a nice, long article about the plight of science journalism and the potential role of science blogs in filling the void as science journalists are laid off and the news-media are going bankrupt and shutting down.

No commentary for me about it yet today – I hope others will start first.

The introductory editorial is here: Filling the void: As science journalism declines, scientists must rise up and reach out.

The main article is here: Science journalism: Supplanting the old media? (allows comments)

The PDF is really pretty (and has additional images and boxes in the margins with quotes, numbers, etc.).

As a part of doing research for this article, Geoff Brumfiel did a survey of a number of science journalists, and you can download the Excel spreadsheet with the responses here.

People interviewed for the article and quoted within include John Timmer, Larry Moran, Carl Zimmer, PZ Myers, Michael Lemonick, Derek Lowe and myself, among others.

Let me know what you think.

Update: Good (or, some of them, at least interesting, to be nice) responses by (including commenters) Jessica Palmer, Michael Tobis, Pharynguloids, Larry Moran, Janet Raloff, LouScientist and John Timmer.

Comments

  1. #1 moneduloides
    March 19, 2009

    Now, I haven’t read the article yet, but I have been thinking lately about the #1 criticism voiced from journalists who are against the spread of blogs: no proper fact checking mechanism in place. Of course, journalism proper has proven to not be a whole lot better, but at least the DO have the proper mechanisms in place (It’s just whether or not they have the ability to use those mechanisms properly).

    Back to the criticism; it seems possible that blogging “rings” could be set up that act as a mechanism for fact checking. The individuals within the ring could help fact check the stories of other individuals (very open-sourcey). I don’t know if anything like this exists yet, but it is worth thinking about.

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    March 19, 2009

    No proper fact checking? My readers let me know about mistakes pretty quickly, and then I fix them. That’s better than George F. Will does.

  3. #3 Coturnix
    March 19, 2009

    And if you want a ‘system’ in place, ResearchBlogging.org has a quality-check at entry, as well as provides visibility which ensures that corrections happen fast.

    BTW, John Timmer blogged about the story as well.

  4. #4 Irradiatus
    March 19, 2009

    I’ve said this elsewhere, but I agree in general with the idea of science blogs essentially replacing science journalists (with the exception of science-focused periodicals – i.e. articles written by excellent authors with strong science training).

    But I definitely think that the nature article had a very good point on the problem of reach with science blogs.

    I think we will become more fractionated as more scientists join the blogging community (which I hope they do). The real problem will be in how we reach the lay audience that might not care enough to search out our information. At the very least, with the MSM, anyone who reads a newspaper, or these days a news website, at least see headlines that may or may not grab their attention.

    So how will we reach those people when the MSM science sections are gone?

    I have no idea – and I think it’s an important question.

  5. #5 bioephemera
    March 19, 2009

    Bora, my thoughts are here.

  6. #6 Mr. Gunn
    March 19, 2009

    Both criticisms by old media, reach and profitability, make the fatal error of assuming that the results they get today will not be affected by the change in mindshare from old media to new. That assumption would be true if current consumers of only old media stopped entirely from consuming any media, but it’s not true if you get significant migration from old-only to new.

    So people don’t want to pay for paper anymore. So what? Is that the only value proposition old media can put forward?

  7. #7 Coturnix
    March 19, 2009

    That is correct and something I never see mentioned – when newspapers die, their readers are not going to sit at home twiddling their thumbs – they will find news, journalism and/or entertainment elsewhere: radio, TV or Internet.

    Another one is that they always ask “how do I know who is a trustworthy blogger?”. Well, how do you know that NYTimes is a trustworthy paper? You were not born with that knowledge – you heard about it from people you trust (parents, colleagues), and, after some time reading it you decided they were right or not. The same with blogs: ask me for recommendation if you trust me. Then spend a few months reading those blogs I recommended and make up your own mind. They want instant gratification: a Big Trusted Name, by not understanding that the Web is a case of Big Trusted Networks of many names.

  8. #8 ERV
    March 20, 2009

    … no proper fact checking mechanism in place…

    AAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Like how George Wills global warming denial essays were ‘fact checked’? How we get article after article after article of ‘OMFG WE CURED AIDZ!’ ‘SO CALLED JUNK DNA CAN HAS FUNKSHUN!’ ‘LOSE WEIGHT WIT DIS MAGIK DIET!’ ‘VAXINES CAUSE TEH AUTISM!!’

    AAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA!!!

    No one is held accountable for shit science in ‘science journalism’. Bloggers have to fact check them. I believe what I read from very few science journalists.

  9. #9 Karen James
    March 21, 2009

    It seems to me (and I wonder if there’s data that addresses this) that science blogging is particularly attractive to women scientists because we are less disenfranchised in the science blogosphere than in our ‘traditional’ scientific and academic communities.

    It’s interesting then that all those you listed who were interviewed and quoted in the article are men. I can’t help wondering if this was done either consciously or subconsciously to help convince blogging skeptics that blogging is a legitimate thing for a scientist to do. Did Geoff Brumfiel worry that if women science bloggers had been interviewed, that would have taken away from the legitimacy message?

    Why, when we want to say ‘hey look this is a thing scientists should do’, do we feel the need to find a bunch of exemplary silverbacks for validation? That’s a rhetorical question of course. We all know why…

  10. #10 Karen James
    March 21, 2009

    Gah. I meant ‘I wonder if there are data that address this’ of course.

  11. #11 Pascal Lapointe
    March 25, 2009

    Strange for me, to see that all the comments does not reference the Nature article. Did anybody read it? For example, as for this:

    That is correct and something I never see mentioned – when newspapers die, their readers are not going to sit at home twiddling their thumbs – they will find news, journalism and/or entertainment elsewhere: radio, TV or Internet.

    When talking specifically about science news, the Nature article is not really saying that.

  12. #12 CP
    March 25, 2009

    Thanks for the heads-up, Boa.

    Since we’re shamelessly self-promoting, I wanted to mention a relevant article by myself and Vivian Siegel in the open access journal Disease Models & Mechanisms: Drinking from the firehose of scientific publishing. In it, we address the role of blogs as a post-filter on the literature. Those who are interested in this topic might find the piece useful.

  13. #13 CP
    March 25, 2009

    I mean “Bora!” You are neither cold-blooded nor a constrictor.

  14. #14 Coturnix
    March 25, 2009

    But I have a long thin body and I am strong!

  15. #15 steelgraham
    March 28, 2009

    Hey CP aka Chris. I just bumped into Vivian on Facebook a few hours ago. I didn’t know that you were part of Ouroboros until just there. I had glanced at the Manuscript you flagged up but have downloaded the pdf and off to read it now.

    Glad you are enjoying the Life Scientists FriendFeed room BTW :)

  16. #16 Coturnix
    April 17, 2009

    My much longer response to the Nature article, among else, is here. Go there. Now.

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