Yesterday, many among us were aghast to learn that yet another major news outlet is eliminating its science coverage. In this case it was CNN, which decided to nix its seven-person unit on science, the environment, and technology–including six producers and veteran space correspondent Miles O’Brien. It’s a growing trend around the country as science journalism is dropping out of style; newspapers are hemmhoraging science sections and reporters, and cable news was already pretty science anemic and is just getting worse. The irony, as Curtis Brainard of the Columbia Journalism Review online wrote, is that “the decision to eliminate the positions seems particularly misguided at a time when world events would seem to warrant expanding science and environmental staff.”
But wait: Were citizens–not science bloggers, not science journalists, but citizens–really aghast at the news from CNN? Sheril did her own reality test… she called some friends back home outside of her comfortable science journalism bubble. No, they hadn’t heard, but they knew what Obama said when Bill Richardson shaved his beard and that Jennifer Aniston is peeved at Vogue. Now, Sheril promises that the ‘control group‘ is comprised of intelligent, curious individuals, but the problem is that Americans are being spoonfed heaps of gossip, instead of what really matters.
A PBS show we like called Sid The Science Kid recently depicted the title character asking why he can’t eat cake for every meal. In the end, he learns that he needs to round out his diet with nutritious foods in order to grow and stay healthy. American journalism should take a lesson from Sid. The media has grown fat by feeding us a steady diet of figurative and often frivolous, sugar-coated dessert, and unfortunately, the dramatic reduction in substance forecasts a grim future.
This seems, then, an appropriate time to formally announce the title of our forthcoming, co-authored book: Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, due out from Basic Books in May of 2009. We won’t give much away yet, but suffice it to say, it is about all of this–despite the importance of science, why is the media running away from it? Why doesn’t it have the influence it obviously deserves?
We, of course, have all the answers (yeah, right).
Seriously, though, we’ll have more info about the book soon. In the meantime, you can see the amazon page here. People are already ordering it.