Sykes on science journalism

Apologies for the light posting of late, but to be honest I really can’t be arsed. I shall instead take the lazy blogger’s option and flag something interesting I saw a a while back in the mainstream media™.

In this case it was by scary woman Kathy Sykes in New Scientist, ticking off those who go on ad nauseam about the poor quality of contemporary science journalism. Sykes is Collier Professor of Sciences and Society at the University of Bristol, and a frequent contributor to various popular science television shows.

Sykes’s problem is with what she describes as excessive, nit-picking criticism, and I agree with her entirely on this matter. There may be some appallingly bad science reporting in the British press and broadcast media, including broadsheets which like to brag about their commitment to science journalism. But there are at the same time some outstanding science writers, and one often sees well-researched and beautifully written feature articles in such publications as New Scientist which take constant flak from whingeing scientists and bloggers for an alleged dumbing-down of content. I’m also impressed on the whole with the reporting that appears on the BBC News website.

From Sykes:

“As just one example of excessive criticism, the editor of BBC TV’s flagship science series Horizon is regularly barraged with complaints from angry scientists about ‘dumbing down’, particularly in response to the programmes that attract people who don’t usually watch science. I think we should be grateful for the new viewers.”

When I last looked at this piece online, there were many comments flying off on all sorts of tangents, and very few of them appeared to address the subject at hand. Typical.

As Sykes says, if people are troubled with the way in which others communicate, then they should put up or shut up. For example, any fule, science educated or otherwise, can set up a blog.