from Andrew Revkin’s NY Times blog:>December 4, 2008, 10:34 am
>Science Journalism Implosion, CNN and Beyond
>By Andrew C. Revkin
>CNN is firing science correspondent Miles O’Brien and six producers. >(Credit: CNN)
>CNN is eliminating its seven-person unit covering science, the >environment, and technology, saying its “Planet in Peril” programs >do the trick. Curtis Brainard, who assesses environmental coverage >for the Columbia Journalism Review online, in a comprehensive piece >on the move, said: “[T]he decision to eliminate the positions seems >particularly misguided at a time when world events would seem to >warrant expanding science and environmental staff.”
>Of course, the situation at CNN is hardly isolated. Newspaper >coverage of science outside of health and wellness is steadily >eroding. Even here at The Times, where the Science Times section >celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003 and management has always >supported strong science coverage, we (like everyone in print media) >are doing ever more with less.
>At CNN, among those leaving will be Peter Dykstra, a seasoned >producer focused on science and the environment, and Miles O’Brien, >a longtime CNN reporter and former morning news anchor, who I got to >know when he turned to climate coverage in a big way several years >ago. (See his spicy interview with Senator James Inhofe, the >Oklahoma Republican who challenges dire climate projections.)
>Just in case you think this is a new trend, consider this flashback >to the 1980’s, which shows how the public-service aspect of >journalism – sustaining coverage of important arenas even if it does >not “sell” – is a hard fit in a world focused on the bottom line:
>In the mid 1980’s, early in my science-writing career, I was hired >by the Los Angeles Times to be one of the first reporters for a >planned weekly science section like the established Science Times of >The New York Times. While things were getting set up, I was assigned >a slot in the San Fernando Valley, reporting on everything from >gasoline in the groundwater to a days-long hunt for Martina >Navratilova’s lost dogs. Before my first year was up, the section >was canceled.
>I was told by management that the paper’s business side made the >case that it was selling personal-computer ads in the sports >section, so why did it need a science section? I moved back east to >be an editor at Discover Magazine (and shortly afterward wrote my >first long story on global warming).
>It turns out that the Los Angeles Times’ move back then was just an >early-stages hint of the shrinkage of science journalism to come, in >all markets and media. My sense is that while it’s easy to blame >pencil-pushing accountants for all of this, it’s also worth >examining how we teach science and engineering (and new generations >of media consumers).
>One reason I aimed my third book on the environment (co-published by >The Times) at younger readers was in hopes that it might kindle a >bit of excitement in science as a journey and adventure, and not a >static set of facts. My guess is that until a new generation is >engaged in the importance and possibilities of science from the >bottom up, science journalists will remain a threatened, if not >endangered, species. What do you think?
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