It’s the end of the day and I don’t have time to write what I planned, but I’d like to flag two worthwhile articles in the March 19 issue of Nature (a publication I’ve written for in the past).
As a sometime writer about science, I was discouraged to read in Science journalism: Supplanting the old media?, by Geoff Brumfiel, that—big surprise—the daily press is drastically cutting its science coverage and firing its science beat reporters. According to Brumfiel, science blogs are now providing interested readers with some of the reportage they used to receive in the general press and in popular science magazines, but of course readers who don’t actively look for science coverage but who used to glance at an occasional science headline that caught their eye are now left with no coverage at all—further distancing the general public from understanding science.
But so far there’s no alternative for another vital role filled by the science beat reporter:
Others worry about the less questioning approach that comes with a stress on communication rather than journalism. “Science is like any other enterprise,” says Blum. “It’s human, it’s flawed, it’s filled with politics and ego. You need journalists, theoretically, to check those kinds of things,” she says. In the United States, at least, the newspaper, the traditional home of investigations and critical reporting, is on its way out, says Hotz. “What we need is to invent new sources of independently certified fact.”
The second is a thought-provoking essay by Wendy Barnaby, Do Nations Go To War Over Water? It should be of special interest to SoJo’s readers, given the role that water plays in the Israel-Arab conflict. I don’t know if she’s right, but she certainly offers an argument I haven’t heard before. (Unfortunately, the entire article seems to be available to subscribers, so I’ll quote liberally here.)