Israeli science and the British media

Like Stephen Hoffman over at Harry’s Place I applaud the esteemed Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland for hosting its recent Science Week, but the argument that the British press is hesitant to report on science in Israel is specious. One can reasonably argue that Israeli science gets relatively little coverage in what are essentially political comment media, but journalistic commentators and bloggers inhabit a self-selecting world that comes with its own biases, irrespective of ideological leaning.

New science results are brought to the attention of non-specialist journalists through news agencies such as AP, Reuters, and AFP, and to specialist science reporters via press release aggregators such as AlphaGalileo. From my perspective as a science journalist there is no relative shortage of reports of Israeli scientific output, but there is certainly a paucity of science news in general terms. With proper journalism dying on its arse, the result of a lack of editorial investment combined with media consumer disinterest (or at least a preference for glossy tabloid presentations fronted by overused celebrities), this situation is likely to get worse. Journalism is being replaced with PR and tangential comment.

Much Israeli science is worthy of media reporting, but at the same time nothing to make a song and dance about. In those media which bother to employ science journalists, reports of Israeli science are often to be found. While I have never had cause to gather statistics on the matter, my impression from noting informally which news agency science stories make it into the British press and broadcast media is that the research community in Israel punches at least up to its weight. If you fail to see these news reports, maybe you are simply not looking. Either that, or you are only interested in high-profile stuff with a political angle. But science isn’t like that, by and large.