Tag Archives: press release journalism

Modern Journalism: Retyping press releases

This post is really about the monthly NOAA update of the solar cycle, but before I do that, I must note some really bad science journalism in connection with that solar minimum.

This week NASA released a poorly written press release describing how the Sun’s magnetic field flips whenever it goes through solar maximum, the period when sunspot activity reaches its maximum. The article gave the incorrect impression that this “flip” will be some grand singular and spectacular event and when it happens the consequences to Earth could be significant. Then it buried this most important little detail to the article’s final paragraphs:
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The Pathetic State Of Science Journalism

The pathetic state of science journalism.

Many survive as a science journalist just by paying attention to press releases and reproducing them, as long as others do the same. A recent BBC analysis of its science coverage in its own news reports revealed that 75% came from press releases, and only a tiny fraction contained views not expressed in those press releases.

This lip service is not good enough, and editors should wise up that science journalism has lost its edge and demand reform. It has also become uncritical and therefore not journalism. Too many who profess to practice journalism are the product of fashionable science communication courses that have sprung up in the past fifteen years. It’s my view that this has resulted in many journalists being supporters of, and not reporters of, science. There is a big difference.

I couldn’t agree more. I sometimes think my rants against “press release journalism” sound like a broken record. I am glad I am not the only one ranting.