Journalism at ScienceOnline2010


The year that just ended, 2009, was a year that saw huge changes in the world of media and the world of journalism. Science journalism has also been greatly affected, with many media outlets firing their science journalists first, then firing all the others afterwards. Much virtual ink has been spilled on the topics of "death of newspapers" and "bloggers vs. journalists is over" and "future of journalism", etc.

If you checked out everyone who's registered for the ScienceOnline2010 conference, or followed my posts introducing everyone, you have probably noticed that this, fourth meeting is chock-full of science journalists of various stripes: science/nature/medical reporters, freelance writers, editors, bloggers, press information officers, radio show hosts, podcasters, book authors, videographers, tweeterers, etc. Thus it is not surpising that many sessions and demos on the Program touch on and a few directly address the current and future state of science journalism. The sessions that most directly address the state of science journalism are:

Science on Radio, TV and video - Darlene Cavalier and Kirsten 'Dr.Kiki' Sanford

Description: How is science portrayed in mass market multi-media? We will examine the ways that the many available audio and video formats present scientific ideas, and the pros, and the cons to what reaches your eyes and ears. We will also embark on a conversation to investigate what can be done by the average scientist to help make science in the media even better. Discuss here.

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web - Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs

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? Discuss "here":…

Talking Trash: Online Outreach from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Miriam Goldstein, Lindsey Hoshaw and Annie Crawley

Description: Debris in the North Pacific Gyre received unprecedented attention in 2009 with voyages from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Project Kaisei, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Each voyage integrated online outreach into its mission, but emphasized very different aspects of the problem. What are the challenges of creating a major outreach effort from one of the most isolated places on earth? How can scientists, journalists, and educators balance "exciting findings live from the field!" with "highly preliminary unpublished non-peer-reviewed data that our labwork might contradict"? And why is the public so interested in the issue of trash in the ocean, anyway? Discuss here.

Science and Entertainment: Beyond Blogging - Tamara Krinsky and Jennifer Ouellette

Description: Over the past several years, the Internet has tangibly changed the way that movies and TV shows are produced and marketed. Blogs will call out ridiculous scientific errors found in stories and the critique can go viral very quickly; therefore, science advising is on the rise in an attempt to add some semblance of plausibility to your favorite flicks. As tools on the web continue to evolve, filmmakers and television creators are finding new ways to connect with and market to their viewers. For some shows, this has meant tapping into the science featured in their content, ranging from an exploration of the roots of the science that has been fictionalized to the expansion of a scientific topic explored in a documentary. In this session, we'll look at how online video and social networking tools are playing a part in connecting science, Hollywood and its fans. Discuss here.

How does a journalist figure out "which scientists to trust"? - Christine Ottery and Connie St Louis

Description: We will talk about how science journalists can know which scientists to trust based on a blogpost by Christine Ottery that made a splash in the world of science communication. As a relative newcomer to science journalism and blogging (Christine) and an award-winning broadcaster, journalist, writer and scientist (Connie), we will be bringing two very different viewpoints to the discussion. We will be touching on peer review, journals, reputation and maverick scientists. We will also examine how journalists and scientists can foster good working relationships with each other, find out what is best practice when it comes to sources for science journalists, and turn the premise of the talk on its head and ask "Which journalists can you trust?" of the scientists. Discuss here.

Trust and Critical Thinking - Stephanie Zvan, PZ Myers, Desiree Schell, Greg Laden and Kirsten Sanford

Description: Lay audiences often lack the resources (access to studies, background knowledge of fields and methods) to evaluate the trustworthiness of scientific information as another scientist or a journalist might. Are there ways to usefully promote critical thinking about sources and presentation as we provide information? Can we teach them to navigate competing claims? And can we do it without promoting a distrust of science itself? Discuss: here.

Getting the Science Right: The importance of fact checking mainstream science publications -- an underappreciated and essential art -- and the role scientists can and should (but often don't) play in it. - Rebecca Skloot

Description: Much of the science that goes out to the general public through books, newspapers, blogs and many other sources is not professionally fact checked. As a result, much of the public's understanding of science is based on factual errors. This discussion will focus on what scientists and journalists can do to fix that problem, and the importance of playing a pro-active role in the process. Discuss here.

Medical journalism - Walter Jessen and Karl Leif Bates

Description: It could be argued that healthcare already has a "killer app" - search. According to research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 61% of us look online for medical information. In an age of horizontal information distribution and social networks, what sort of medical information, disinformation and misinformation does one find? How do we fight publishers of medical information that is inaccurate, misleading or wrong? Is a website sponsored by a drug company more reliable than one sponsored by a disease group? Can a University PR site be trusted? How about an M.D or Ph.D. that blogs on medicine or medical research? What about a federal agency such as the FDA or CDC? What difference does a seal of approval from the Health on the Net Foundation (HONcode) make if Google's algorithms don't value it? Discuss here.

Government 2.0 - Anil Dash

Description: Anil Dash is a pioneer blogger (and of course twitterer) and one of the founders of Six Apart, the company that built blogging platforms including MoveableType (which is used by and Typepad. Recently he made an official announcement that he will be leading Expert Labs (also on Twitter) which is a new project (largely run/funded by AAAS) to facilitate feedback by the experts (including scientists, of course) to the Obama Administration and other government officials. Read the press release, the early media coverage (this one is much better) , an interview with Anil (pdf) and a video. Interestingly, Anil got this job due to writing a blog post stating that the executive branch of the federal government of the United States was the "Most Interesting New Tech Startup of 2009".


To prepare you for the lively discussions, I decided to put together some of the most important discussions about science and the media written by the people who will be there (mostly written during the last year or so), as well as a few "classics" (IMHO) by good media-watchers elsewhere:

Carl Zimmer:

Visions of the Crash
Apocalypse Via Press Release
Disappearing The Science News
Unchecked Ice: A Saga in Five Chapters
Checking George Will: The Perils of Time Travel
My God, It's Full of Blogs

Ed Yong:

Scientists heart journalists? Plus a quick guide to dealing with the media
On science blogging and mainstream science writing...
WCSJ: Flat Earth News with Nick Davies - a discussion on the breaking of journalism
Does science journalism falter or flourish under embargo?
On cheerleaders and watchdogs - the role of science journalism
Breaking the inverted pyramid - placing news in context
Who are the science journalists?
Adapting to the new ecosystem of science journalism

John Timmer:

The Nature of Nobel Intent
PR or science journalism? It's getting harder to tell
Social media threats hyped by science reporting, not science
Wikipedia hoax points to limits of journalists' research

Christine Ottery:

Science journalism in crisis?/Will I have a job when I finish my MA?
Is science journalism a danger to public health?
Can humanities graduates do it? Actually write science journalism?
In a land far, far away: the future of science journalism
Science literacy - getting more people into science, innit
Science literacy - getting more people into science, innit. part 2
Which scientists can you trust?


What does it mean that a nation is 'Unscientific'?
Defining the Journalism vs. Blogging Debate, with a Science Reporting angle
What is 'Investigative Science Journalism'?
The Ethics of The Quote
Scientists are Excellent Communicators ('Sizzle' follow-up)
The Shock Value of Science Blogs posts now a part of Article-Level-Metrics at PLoS
Behold the Birth of the Giga-Borg
Graham Lawton Was Wrong
Why good science journalists are rare?
ScienceOnline'09 - Saturday 4:30pm and beyond: the Question of Power
Talkin' Trash
What is science's rightful place?
'Journalists vs. Blogs' is bad framing
New Journalistic Workflow
'Bloggers' vs 'Audience' is over? or, Will the word 'blogger' disappear?
I don't care about business models of journalism/publishing.

David Dobbs:

Blogosphere, MSM journalism, and the PTSD story
Rebooting (and Funding) Science Journalism
Rebooting science journalism, redux
Watchdogs, sniff this: What investigative science journalism can investigate
Zyprexa, Infinite Mind, and mainstream vs. pajama press

Janet D. Stemwedel:

Book review: Unscientific America.
Unscientific America: Give the people what they want, or what they need?
Unscientific America: Is the (new) media to blame?
Unscientific America: Are scientists all on the same team?
Researchers talking to journalists should assume the public might be listening.
Are you a scientist or a journalist here? Either way, you're bound by ethics.

Tom Levenson:

Science Bloggers v. Science Journalists: first thoughts
Science Bloggers vs. Science Writers Round 2: It's Just A Theory dept.
Bloggers v. Journalists round three: the agony of victory.
The Future of Media 2

Brian Switek:

Science bloggers vs. journalists, again
The New Scientist damns science blogs with faint praise
This says it all, really
Book Review: Unscientific America
Science Communication: It's not just about the message
Book Review: Don't Be SUCH A Scientist
Scientist tries to communicate with public, gets quote-mined instead


Who are the Science Journalists?
Unscientific America and the Meaning of Scientific Literacy
So, What Does Outreach By Scientists Look Like?

Greg Laden:

Blogging and Journalism


Book Review: Unscientific America
Science Communication: A Conversation
Part the 4th: In which The New Scientist reviews Open Lab 2008 and Laelaps rocks my socks

Stephanie Zvan:

What Is an Editor?
Trust and Critical Thinking in Science Reporting: A Case Study
Credulity, Skepticism and Cynicism

Andrew Revkin

My Second Half
Revkin Taking NYT Buyout

Jessica Palmer:

Is the internet to blame for the decline of science journalism? And can blogs fill the void?
Science journalism: don't forget the editors
The Return of the Son of Bloggers vs. Journalists (Part II!)
paradigm shift: fact-checking (journalism) vs debugging (programming)

Abbie Smith

Good Science Journalism, Bad Science Journalism

Jon Voisey

Friends and Enemies

Zen Faulkes

I want to be Carl Sagan, but can't

Grant Jacobs

Media thought: Ask what is known, not the expert's opinion
Scientists on TV: referees of evidence or expert's opinion?
Genetic tests and personalised medicine, some science communication issues
Three kinds of knowledge about science journalism
Science journalism--critical analysis not debate
Note to science communicators--alleles, not "disease genes"
Sidebar scientists
Scientists can't write?
For those interested science journalism
Science writing vs. science journalism

Jay Rosen:

If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn't. So Let's Get a Clue.
Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press
The People Formerly Known as the Audience
Users-Know-More-than-We-Do Journalism
Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over
Rosen's Flying Seminar In The Future of News

Clay Shirky:

Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable
A Speculative Post on the Idea of Algorithmic Authority

Jeff Jarvis:

Is journalism storytelling?
Content farms v. curating farmers
The annotated world

Dan Conover:

2020 vision: What's next for news
The fire that frees the seed
New media virtual interview No. 2
The Big Pool of Money experiment
Narrative is dead! Long live Narrative!
The newspaper suicide pact
The limits of social
The Imagination Gap
The future is nearer than you think
What's interesting in the media discussion

Cody Brown:

Batch vs. Real Time Processing, Print vs. Online Journalism: Why the Best Web News Brands Will Never Look Like The New York Times
A Public Can Talk To Itself: Why The Future of News is Actually Pretty Clear

Rebooting the News - 37 podcasts you need to catch up with....


All of these sessions will be either recorded or livestreamed+recorded.

Livestreaming will be both on Ustream and in SecondLife - watch the wiki or our Twitter (@scio10) account to get the correct URLs when the time comes. The livestreamed sessions will take some questions/comments from the virtual audience.

Videos will be posted on YouTube ( ), on the conference wiki, on my blog, on Science In The Triangle, and the links will be tweeted, friendfed and facebooked (see the wiki homepage for the links to all of that). So you will be able to see all of this.... Follow the hashtag #scio10 everywhere (Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, blogs, etc.) to keep up.


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