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Sloppy science writing in Australia’s media

media-slack

The death of science journalism in Australia 

Independent Australia by   24 July, 2013  As the mainstream media struggles – particularly newspapers – the loss of journalists is a worrying trend; Noel Wauchope explains why she is most concerned about the loss of qualified science journalists.   INVESTIGATIVE journalists would do well to investigate what is happening to science news writing in Australia…..

Does the U.S. need a Science Media Center?

Image source ; http://ksj.mit.edu/tracker/2013/06/does-us-need-science-media-center

 I knew that quality science journalism in Australia was dwindling. It took the most recent pro-nuclear advertorial in the Fairfax media to really wake me up to this. John Watson, ‘Senior writer’ at Fairfax Media, wrote an article entitled, Want to kill fewer people? Go nuclear…..

Why have The Age,  Sydney Morning Herald and others sunk to this level of sloppy journalism?

Apart from the obvious fact they don’t want to offend their corporate backers, this kind of writing is symptomatic of what happens when you get rid of your qualified dedicated science journalists. Amongst the plethora of Fairfax journalists encouraged to depart their jobs were science editor Deborah Smith, health editor Julie Robotham, health correspondent Mark Metherell and environment reporter Rossyln Beeby. 

That’s Fairfax. But what about the Murdoch media? The Murdoch media never had much of  a problem in its coverage of science. The Australian blithely publishes science articles written by journalists who are clearly far from expert in the field of science.

This has been documented by Tim Lambert with his article, The Australian’s War on Science. In it he goes about scrutinising, in depth, writers such as Maurice Newman and Graham Lloyd.

The Australian did have one qualified science writer,  Leigh Dayton. When she was sacked, the reason given by her editors was they:

‘… could rely on the supply of press releases from the Australian Science Media Centre so that their general reporters could write the science news.’ [Ed: Leigh Dayton denies having said this and we are currently endeavouring to check with the author of the Columbia Journalism Review paper as to the veracity or otherwise of the above statement.]

This brings me back to the Australian Science Media Centre. …

The development of science media centres (SMCs) has been problematic as far as coverage of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The use of SMCs around the world has assisted the nuclear industry. It has seemingly got Tepco and others out of paying huge compensation to those impacted by the disaster…..

An article at nuclear-news.net provides a number of references revealing how experts from SMCs have downplayed the seriousness of the nuclear disaster. I note that the “experts” writing about ionising radiation and health were nuclear engineers — not radiation biologists……

how do general journalists scrutinise and distinguish between what is an independent science story and what is a pro business story? How easy might it be for general journalists to be discouraged from covering certain topics?….If the subject is  complex – the health effects of Fukushima radiation – it is all too easy to go to the science media centre and get a comforting article from a nuclear engineer.

Just as has happened in Japan and the UK. http://www.independentaustralia.net/2013/business/media-2/the-death-of-science-journalism-in-australia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-death-of-science-journalism-in-australia

July 26, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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