Adventures in Ethics and Science

Session description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway?

The session was led by Ed Yong (@edyong209), Carl Zimmer (@carlzimmer), John Timmer (@j_timmer), and David Dobbs (@David_Dobbs).

Here’s the session wiki page

“Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web” about to get started. If bomb goes off in this room, sci journ is scrod. #scio10

*Not* going to talk about bloggers as journalist. (B/c really, that disc is so 2008.) #scio10

Who counts as a science journalist nowadays anyway? (Some direct-to-public communication is taking the form of journalism) #scio10

Values that are shared (truth, accuracy, etc.) as what defines journalism, not a particular employment situation. #scio10

Ed Yong started blogging because std. pitches weren’t working; doing journalism himself opened doors. #scio10

Getting good science out to people that’s interesting and understandable. #scio10

Yong wants to see mainstream news outlets take advantage of massive influx of talent (people “doing journalism” themselves online) #scio10

Blend of specialist knowledge and generalist experience important in where science journalism is going. #scio10

Timmer: What to preserve from the existing system that’s working well? Reach ppl who don’t know they’re interested in science. #scio10

Ars technica uses interest in tech as the hook to get IT folks, gadget enthusiasts, gamers, exposed to science stories. #scio10

Timmer on Ars Technica freelancers:”I give them ideas; they ignore me …” #scio10

Ars Technica gives grad students, postdocs, the experience of writing, working worth an editor. #scio10

Ars Technica gives engineers stories that make them grapple with their climate skepticism. #scio10

David Dobbs: What I like abt writing abt science: 1. Wow! This is intriguing. #scio10

David Dobbs: What I like abt writing abt science: 2. Something smells funny here. (e.g., stories abt. pharma’s shenanigans) #scio10

David Dobbs: What I like to write abt science: 3.How does science embody/entrench deep cultural beliefs (& vice versa)? #scio10

Horror: Stories that didn’t get published b/c publication they were written for folded first. #scio10

Need to maintain existence of outlets that will publish 5k-8k word science stories. (People will read them.) #scio10

Need to watch sources of $ – make sure no more problemtic than what exists now #scio10

Need to keep writers transparent and skeptical (even in the face of “Wow!) #scio10

Carl Zimmer: Lessons for sci journalism from duck genitals. #scio10

Building silicon duck vaginas to test hyptheses about sex selection. Ducks split them, had to go to glass ones. #scio10

Zimmer: This requires follow-up! Asks researchers for videos of duck sex research. #scio10

Editor replies to duck sex videos in ALL CAPS! Takes a pass. (That’s NYT’s loss. Zimmer posts videos himself.) #scio10

Sex videos may reach potential general audience science fans even without reach of NYT. Duck fetishists learn abt sex selection! #scio10

Journalistic ecosystem of large and small organizations interacting with each other (even online). OK if big org editor says no #scio10

Journos were arguing about who had to be doom & gloom, who got to be ray of hope in session. #scio10

Q: “How can bloggers in audience behave more like professional journalists?” A: “Why do you want to do that?” #scio10

Learn how to write in diff tones, structure a story, master form of informational storytelling. Study people whose work you enjoy #scio10

Tell enough ppl you’re a journalist and they’ll start treating you that way. #scio10

Reading a lot of people can help you write better (thru osmosis?) #scio10

Fellowships, story fees, etc. — mix of modes to fund the writing of longer stories. #scio10

Bloggers who work for particular orgs might not get access to stories owing to potential conflicts of interest #scio10

Grad students/postdocs perceived as special risk when given access to embargoed research. (Like 2 weeks headstart makes diff?) #scio10

Zimmer: We love to put labels on things (journalism, blogging, etc.) – don’t get hung up on defns. It’s good sci writing or not. #scio10

Is signing over your space to interesting ideas (cf. Andrew Sullivan) the way to foster more/better science writing? #scio10

Blogging in journo ecosystem: spreads but doesn’t wipe everything out. Large media outlets hanging in. #scio10

Michael Spector: don’t read Wired to learn how to write well. Read Anna Karenina. #scio10

M. Spector: Can’t reach all the pple we need to in lots of splintered outlets. Zimmer: How to do that (given editorial pressures)? #scio10

M. Spector: Need more broad outreach to general pop, or we end up just talking to each other in hotel rooms. #scio10

Linking smaller outlets as a way to break down need for general interst outlets. #scio10

Yong: Not everyone is online or tech savvy. Don’t want to lose them. (Might reinforce existing info disparities) #scio10

Focusing on hits (like duck sex) vs. depth. #scio10

“Generalizing” science in diff ways (paleontology art site project that drew in comics illustrators) #scio10

Cool science stories turning up in video game disc forums; Zimmer talks science in interviews w/tattoo mags. #scio10

Charlotte Observer just started some science pages! (How is this possible in current climate?) #scio10

How do editors find good freelances? National Society of Science Writers. (Plus there might be some folks at #scio10)

Writers trying to squeeze thru thin door w/lots of other ppl, yet editors always looking for more interesting sci stories & writers #scio10

Talking abt science in very local contexts as a way the army of bloggers can have sig impact on reach to gen public #scio10

Taking note of local industries, local environmental issues, etc. (making sci relevant) #scio10

Publishing press releases as news bad for transparency and accuracy (not checked by scientists) #scio10

Futurity flags its content as press-releases (and researchers sign off on it) even tho headlines, ledes rewritten #scio10

“News from major research universities” … is that like White House “News” conferences? (What does “news” promise abt accuracy?) #scio10

Is the disclaimer on press releases *sufficient* for general audience looking for sci news they can count on #scio10

What do universities have to gain by misleading here? We’re not drug companies! (Uh …) #scio10

Read the paper, not just the press release; that’s where they data is. (Include the damn DOI) #scio10

Need journos to translate the science so gen public can understand it. (Public not nec ready to decode orig sci papers themselves.) #scio10

Push strategy vs. pull strategy (those already interested vs. those who can’t escape your reach). #scio10

T-shirts as strategy for engaging gen public in cool science stories. Massive exposure can work, even if frenzy is overblown #scio10

RT@TomLevenson @docfreeride: read the paper is a spurious demand for connecting public to science. This is tantamount to abandoning the field. #scio10.

@ivanoransky At the least, the claim that univ=/=pharma required an arg. & evidence to back it up. Hard to recognize own conflicts #scio10

@ivanoransky Some purveyors of journalistic disinfectant think they have an interest in controlling the disinfectant market. #scio10