Category Archives: Media

Real-Time News Gathering – #140conf (video)

Andy Carvin (@acarvin) – Senior strategist at NPR;
Eric Kuhn (@CNN) – Audience Interaction Producer, CNN;
Jennifer Preston (@NYT_JenPreston) – Social-Media Editor of The New York Times;
Ryan Osborn (@todayshow) – Producer, NBC’s TODAY:

Hello New York! – Dave Winer at #140conf (video)

This is what Dave Winer planned to say. This is what he ended up saying:

Comments are backwards – Jeff Jarvis at #140conf (video)

In this talk, Jeff references his TEDx talk and a couple of his recent blog posts: The problem with comments isn’t them and News(paper) in the cloud:

The Self-Informing Public – Jay Rosen at #140conf (video)

This is bullshit: TEDxNYED talk by Jeff Jarvis (video)


And here are the notes – rethinking the classroom. Completely.

Stuff I showed on my panel at AAAS

Since I don’t do PowerPoint but use the Web for presentations instead, and since the recordings from AAAS are not free (yes, you can buy them, I won’t), and since some people have asked me to show what I showed at my panel there, here is the list of websites I showed there. I opened them up all in reverse chronological order beforehand, so during the presentation itself all I needed to do was close each window as I was done with it to reveal the next window underneath.
I started with http://www.scienceonline2010.com/ to explain the new interactive, collaborative methods in science journalism we discussed there.
Then I showed this series of tweets:
http://twitter.com/cassierodenberg/status/8119288328
http://twitter.com/BoraZ/statuses/8119311288
http://twitter.com/cassierodenberg/status/8120191410
http://twitter.com/BoraZ/statuses/8120374985
http://twitter.com/cassierodenberg/status/8120268454
http://twitter.com/cassierodenberg/status/8813079426
as an example of how that system can work:
http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2010/01/hints_on_how_science_journalis.php
I then showed how I filter my Twitter stream to eliminate much of it and only get to see what people I trust deem important:
http://twittertim.es/BoraZ
http://bora-science.hourlypress.com/
http://bora-media.hourlypress.com/
I pointed out that some people got jobs on Twitter:
http://younglandis.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/firstpost/
I showed how some people – including myself – got jobs on their blogs:
http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2007/04/i_want_this_job.php
http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2007/04/i_want_this_job.php#comment-410506
http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2007/05/its_official_1.php
Then I showed an example of a PLoS ONE paper, as a center of an ecosystem, and the comments and links as an outer shell of that ecosystem:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0005723
http://www.plosone.org/article/related/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0005723;jsessionid=2009BD9E7195AADA6D62474B19ABA3FE
I particularly showed the links to the blog posts aggregated on http://researchblogging.org/ to show the reputability of science blogging in the current science publishing ecosystem.
Then I discussed http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2009/04/new_journalistic_workflow.php
and as example showed how I collect important links about Dunbar Number from Twitter to FriendFeed for a future blog-post:
http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22tag%3A+Dunbar%22
A blog-post or a series of them can lead to an MSM article, and perhaps a series of articles can lead to a book contract. But even without that, one can potentially have a blog post published in a book, e.g., in the Open Laboratory:
http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-open-laboratory-the-best-science-writing-on-blogs-2007/2234830
Finally, if one gets a book published, there is nobody organizing the marketing and the book tours any more, so I showed how Rebecca Skloot organized it herself, by tapping into her online community:
http://scienceblogs.com/culturedish/
http://rebeccaskloot.com/events/

‘Open source dream in journalism’ – Jay Rosen’s presentation at TEDxNYED (video)

More on mindcasting vs. lifecasting

About a week ago I posted Twittering is a difficult art form – if you are doing it right. While Griff Wigley agreed, I also got two interesting and somewhat dissenting reactions from Kate and Heather.
First, in my defense, that post was targeting journalists and professional communicators, just one of many posts in a series, especially in this vein, exploring the best ways for media and comms folks to use Twitter.
Twitter is just another medium. Like blogs, Twitter can be used in any way one wants. I am not going to tell anyone “you are doing it wrong”.
Some media companies just broadcast – put their RSS feeds into Twitter with zero conversation. That is fine – instead of checking them by going to my Google Reader, their feeds come to me automatically on Twitter. That is fine.
Some organizations use Twitter for announcements, news, events, to explain and apologize for technical glitches and, if needed, to respond to questions. That is also fine.
Some people use Twitter to communicate with friends, like texting without having to pay for a texting plan. And that is fine.
Some people use Twitter to livetweet conferences. And that is fine, too.
Some people use Twitter to do quirky and funny stuff. @big_ben_clock tells time. @shitmydadsays is funny. @FakeAPStylebook is funny.
A classroom of 8th-graders are using Twitter to re-enact and explore Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. And that is great.
In the run-up to the last Passover, a bunch of rabbis got on Twitter and re-enacted The Exodus – that was funny as well. Great stuff. Cool use of the platform.
Some people use Twitter to do science. Way cool!
So, there is no one proper way to use Twitter. But for journalists, mindcasting is a good idea to explore.
Kate suggests that mindcasting vs. lifecasting is a gendered division. Perhaps. I am not sure. Is the idea that men impart information (semantic language) while women prefer to socialize (phatic language) itself a gender stereotype?
I follow 3,890 people on Twitter. Some are feeds, some are friends/lifecasters, some are quirky and funny, a couple are celebrities, but most are doing some form of Mindcasting. Not 100% (that seems impossible) but anywhere between 50% and 80% mindcasting, the rest being lifecasting, chatter with friends, etc. Stuff easy to skip in one’s stream.
And of all those people I follow, I could not detect a gender division. It is impossible to parse 3,890 people by gender in any automated way, but I think I follow slightly more women than men, and most of them are wonderful mindcasters. So, at least within the self-selected sample of people on Twitter and me-selected sample of people to follow, men and women are equally likely to be mindcasters and use the platform in the journalistic/media/communication-useful way.
Perhaps some of the confusion arose due to distinction between ‘personal’ and ‘private’. If you tweet every time you stop by Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s lifecasting. But if you are having a special meal in a special place, it is somewhat mindcasting. If you are a chef or a food critic, tweeting about food IS your job and people expect you to do that often – that IS mindcasting for you.

This week we’ll be in New York City

The Bride Of Coturnix and I are flying to NYC early tomorrow morning and leaving Thursday afternoon. While we set Monday and Thursday to be “for us”, we are flexible if anyone wants to meet for coffee or lunch – just let me know and we can arrange something. We plan to meet with my brother late Monday night for dinner or drinks (depending how timely is his flight in) but we can meet earlier.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we will attend the 140 Characters Conference organized by Jeff Pulver:

At #140conf NYC we will be taking a hard look at something Jeff Pulver calls “The State of NOW” and the continued effects the worldwide adoption of social communication platforms such as twitter is having on a number of industries including: Celebrity, “The Media”, Advertising, Politics, Education, Music, Television, Comedy, Real Estate, Public Policy and more.

This is the second time this conference is held in NYC (it was also held in Los Angeles, London and Tel Aviv last year and is planned for DC, Tel Aviv, Atlanta, Los Angeles and London later this year). When it was in NYC the first time, the Twitter stream and the subsequent videos and blog-posts revealed a level of energy and excitement, as well as wealth of information, that told me we should not miss this second one.
There will be an amazing list of speakers and an incredible schedule. The Twitter hashtag for this event is #140conf NYC so you can follow.
There is an organized dinner for attendees on Tuesday to which we may or may not go, but on both Tuesday and Wednesday we will go wherever people we most care about decide to go and I will tweet the location so you can join us – have to be flexible and up-to-the-last minute this time around (not my usual style – I tend to plan these events in advance, invite people to a Facebook Event etc.). So follow my Twitter feed if you are in NYC and would like to have a beer at some point that is good for you.

Best posts on Media, (Science) Journalism and Blogging at A Blog Around The Clock

As this blog is getting close to having 10,000 posts, and my Archives/Categories are getting unweildy (and pretty useless), I need to get some of the collections of useful posts together, mainly to make it easier for myself to find them. I did that by collecting my best Biology posts a couple of weeks ago. Today, I am collecting my best posts from the categories of Media, Science Reporting, Framing Science and Blogging. There are thousands of posts in these categories combined, most with excellent links or videos, but here are some of the posts that have substantial proportion of my own thinking in them.
It is also interesting to note – if you pay attention to the dates when the posts were published, going back to 2004 – how my thinking and attitude changed over the years, as well as how the world of media, blogs and science communication changed at the same time, forcing me to evolve with it:
Defining the Journalism vs. Blogging Debate, with a Science Reporting angle
What is Journalism?
What does it mean that a nation is ‘Unscientific’?
What is ‘Investigative Science Journalism’?
New science journalism ecosystem: new inter-species interactions, new niches
The Ethics of The Quote
‘Journalists vs. Blogs’ is bad framing
New Journalistic Workflow
Why good science journalists are rare?
Why is ‘scientists are bad communicators’ trope wrong
Push vs. Pull strategies in science communication
What is journalism and do PIOs do it? And what’s with advertising?
Why it is important for media articles to link to scientific papers
Using Twitter to learn economy of words – try to summarize your research paper in 140 characters or less!
North Carolina science journalism/blogging projects getting noticed
AAAS 2010 meeting – the Press Room….why?
Twittering is a difficult art form – if you are doing it right
Hints on how (science) journalism may be working these days….
Journalism wrap-up from ScienceOnline2010
Making it real: People and Books and Web and Science at ScienceOnline2010
Talkin’ Trash
Scientists are Excellent Communicators (‘Sizzle’ follow-up)
ScienceOnline’09 – Saturday 4:30pm and beyond: the Question of Power
The Shock Value of Science Blogs
Caryn Shechtman: A Blogger Success Story (an interview with Yours Truly)
Behold the Birth of the Giga-Borg
‘Bloggers’ vs ‘Audience’ is over? or, Will the word ‘blogger’ disappear?
I don’t care about business models of journalism/publishing.
The Perils of Predictions: Future of Physical Media
Graham Lawton Was Wrong
Science by press release – you are doing it wrong
Incendiary weekend post on bloggers vs. journalists
Who has power?
D.C. press corps dissed again – but this time for good reasons
Bloggers vs. Journalists Redux, part N
‘Newsworthy-ness’
Are we Press? Part Deux
Science vs. Britney Spears
Sizzle
Bloggers vs. Journalists morphs into Twitterers vs. Journalists
Elites? That’s somehow bad?
Will there be new communication channels in the Obama administration?
Smoke Signals, Blogs, and the Future of Politics
I inform people against their will!
To Educate vs. To Inform
Fair Use and Open Science
Talking To The Public
More than just Resistance to Science
One-Stop Shopping for the Framing Science Debate
Framing Science – the Dialogue of the Deaf
Framing ‘framing’
Did I frame that wrong?
Framing and Truth
Just a quick update on ‘framing science’
Joshua Bell and Framing Science
Framers are NOT appeasers!
Framing Politics (based on science, of course)
Everybody Must Get Framed
How to read a scientific paper
Blog Carnivals – what is in it for you?
Science Blogging – what it can be
Michael Skube: just another guy with a blog and an Exhibit A for why bloggers are mad at Corporate Media
Blog is software
What is a Science Blog?
False Journalistic Balance
The Inter-Ghost Connection
ConvergeSouth: creepies, domestic tranquility and amplification of serendipity
Proper Procedure For Shutting Down A Blog

For the millionth time: bloggers vs. journalists is over!

Science in the Media: Rude or Ailing Health? was a panel that recently convened in the UK, in a response to a recent UK government report on science in the media . You can watch the video of the entire thing at this link.
The panelists were Natasha Loder of the Economist, Andrew Jack of the Financial Times, Fiona Fox of Science Media Centre (and the author of the report) and Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science blog.
It is interesting to watch and there is much one can say. But it is unfortunate that there was a part of the panel proceedings that descended into the old tired journalists vs. bloggers trope. Most of us are over that. Have been over that for a few years now. But there are still people around, it seems, who just don’t get it. So, it is not surprising that there was a lot of reaction to this, especially to Fiona Fox’s repeat of the tired old idiocy that ‘bloggers cannot be journalists’ which she reiterated in her subsequent article blog post. See these excellent reports and reactions here (I wanted to have them all in one place, for archival purposes – one-stop shop, single link, to all of it – if I missed something, please let me know so I can add the link):
The Science Media Debate: Is this blog journalism or not? by Charlotte King.
When is a blogger/journalist/communicator not a blogger/journalist/communicator? by Harriet Vickers.
Bloggers vs. Journalists: A Response to Fiona Fox (and Richard Littlejohn) by Martin Robbins.
On the bowls versus ice-cream debate by Ed Yong.
Investigative science journalism by Christine Ottery.
Who is to Blame for Bad Health Journalism? by Le Canard Noir.
Bloggers, journalists, same difference? by Grant Jacobs.
Jack of Kent: Orwell Prize Shortlist – and why blogging is *not* the new journalismby Jack of Kent
More on Blogging vs Journalism by Martin Robbins.
An outbreak of crankiness – UPDATED by Dr Aus

Using Multimedia to Advance Your Research and Adventures in Self-Publishing

Science Communicators of North Carolina and Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, present:

“Using Multimedia to Advance Your Research” — and – “Adventures in Self-Publishing”
By Dennis Meredith, author of Explaining Research: How to Reach Key Audiences to Advance Your Work (Oxford University Press)
April 26, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Sigma Xi Center, RTP
Dennis Meredith drew a standing-room-only crowd when he talked at the 2010 AAAS meeting about the role of multimedia in research. We’ve prevailed on Dennis, formerly of Duke University, to reprise his presentation for the home-state crowd.
From the AAAS Annual Meeting guide:
“Creating video and Web explanations of research not only enhances the public’s understanding of science and technology; it also brings scientists practical benefits, such as content that helps funding agencies and legislators advocate for research budgets. And more personally, it teaches scientists an invaluable “visual vernacular” that they can use to enhance their communications with key audiences, including their colleagues, donors, institutional leaders, and students.”
Dennis will also discuss his experiences in publishing Explaining Research with Oxford and in self-publishing his supplemental booklet, Working with Public Information Officers. Although there are many caveats and pitfalls, it is possible to self-publish a science book and make money. Dennis will be signing copies of both books after the talk.
Food and drink will be available at 6:00. The seminar begins at 6:30.
RSVP to chapters@sigmaxi.org by Tuesday, April 20
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, 3106 East NC Highway 54, Research Triangle Park, NC

Twittering is a difficult art form – if you are doing it right

Yesterday, Jay Rosen on Twitter wrote that his goal on Twitter was to have “a Twitter feed that is 100 percent personal (my own view on things…) and zero percent private.”
This is an excellent description of mindcasting. Its alternative, ‘lifecasting’ is 100% private made public.
There is nothing wrong with lifecasting, of course. It is a different style of communication. It is using Twitter with a different goal in mind.
Mindcasting is a method to use Twitter for exchange of news, information, analysis and opinion.
Lifecasting is a method to use Twitter to make friends and communicate with them, to be in a continuous presence in a community of one’s liking.
In a way, the difference between lifecasting and mindcasting is similar to the difference in the use of phatic language versus semantic (or conceptual) language (aside: I have used these concepts before in discussing politics, creationism, etc., e.g., here, here, here and here).
Many observers and analysts of online social networks, usually but not always curmudgeons who like to criticize for the sake of getting people off their lawns, focus entirely on lifecasting and, if they are erudite and educated, they may note its use of phatic language.
Phatic language is the use of words without paying too much attention to their dictionary meaning – the goal is to diffuse social tensions, to establish non-attack pacts between strangers at first meeting, or to reinforce friendship, alliance, or even love.
In politics and propaganda, it is misused for nefarious purposes – drawing the walls between Us and Them, using emotional appeals (or dog-whistles, if the target audience is religious) to get people to vote against their interests, or to vote for interests of the conglomerates, parties or organizations who are paying spin-meisters (like Frank Luntz and Eric Dezenhall) to get the public opinion swayed against the facts unpleasant/expensive to them, for example duping a big proportion of the population into rejecting the fact that the climate is changing fast and that the human activity is the major factor engendering this change.
On the other hand, mindcasting is using semantic (or conceptual) language, where words are supposed to hold their dictionary meanings. The point of mindcasting tweets is to relay information in as clear, succinct, efficient and non-confusing manner as possible. The limit of 140 characters makes tweeting – in a mindcasting sense – very difficult. It is one of the hardest forms of prose to do well.
The masters of Twitter are the masters of language – able to put unambiguous, information-rich, dense yet clear messages out to their audiences. The best twitterers spend quite some time and thought writing and editing each tweet until it is as perfect a package of information as possible – clear, informative in itself, and also motivating the readers to click on the embedded link to find out more. It is not easy to use semantic language in a way that is impossible to read using a phatic mindset – to have it so obviously conceptual that no emotional reading – and thus misunderstanding – is possible. It is a high art.
For those who are good at this difficult art, mindcasting is just the beginning, the first step in communication that may progress from a series of tweets on a topic to a longer blog post, to perhaps an MSM article or even book. It has happened (ask David Dobbs – he recently signed a book deal on a topic that went pretty much through all these steps: starting on social networks, getting feedback there, leading to a couple of blog posts, leading to an article in Atlantic, leading to a book).
So, keep lifecasting if you need to and want to, if that is your goal. But if you have more serious ambitions in media, journalism or science communication, consider mindcasting as your style. As Jay said, mindcasting is full of personality – it is not dry regurgitation of someone else’s news, it is not just a broadcast: it is a conversation about facts and ideas. And it is 0% private.
Now, Jay’s standards are tough, perhaps too tough (even he tweeteed at least a couple of times in his years on Twitter about his private life, e.g., accomplishments of some of his family members). But having it 95% personal and only 5% private is probably good enough ratio for most of us mere mortals.

Weekend reads

Good stuff to keep you occupied over the next couple of days:
Systemic issues in science journalism – the reinforcing cycle of niche reporting
Investigative science journalism
The Bias of Veteran Journalists
Dangerous DNA: The truth about the ‘warrior gene’
The Language of Science – it’s ‘just a theory’
Should journalists report on unpublished research?
Joe McLaughlin will be an excellent journalist
Scientists Embrace Openness with a good vibrant discussion of both Open Science and Open Journalism on FriendFeed.
Home Libraries Provide Huge Educational Advantage
Why Do We Dream?
NSF governing board spikes evolution from science literacy report and A Response to Science on the Decision to Not Include Evolution in the NSB Science Indicators Report and There’s More to Science Than Evolution.
GPS backpacks identify leaders among flocking pigeons

Two good interviews about science journalism

In his ongoing series, Colin Schultz posted two excellent interviews, with Ferris Jabr and with Ed Yong. Both interviews are long-ish, and cover a lot of ground, e.g., about the importance of the “news hook” for science stories, the role of PIOs and press release sites, and the useless blogging vs. journalism wars.

Week in review

This was a busy, crazy week.
On Monday and Tuesday I was in Boston. You may remember I went to Boston last year as well and for the same reason – spending a day at the WGNH studios, helping with the World Science project that combines radio, podcasts and online forums. You have probably noticed I have posted announcements of these throughout the year.
A short story airs on the radio show The World, about some science-related topic with a global angle. The same scientist (or physician, or science journalist) who is interviewed for a couple of minutes on air is also interviewed for 20 minutes for the podcast, and then keeps coming back for another week, responding to the questions on the online forum. Last year, that was just an idea we helped turn into reality – the website went live about a month or so later.
This year, we had something to look at and analyze – how did it go, where the traffic came from, etc, and could make suggestions for improvements for the next year. I hope that the insights from us, the outside consultants, is useful to the crew there. I personally felt that this year’s meeting was better and more productive – perhaps because we had the website and the statistics already in front of us, instead of just visualizing in our minds how this should look like.
The composition of outside consultants also changed over the year. Only Rekha Murthy and I were there from the last year’s lineup (see the first two links in this post for last year’s list). The new folks in the room were C.C.Chapman, Andy Brack and Adnaan Wasey and we quickly ‘clicked’ with each other and with the World/SigmaXi/Nova/PRI people so the business of the day was pleasant and productive.
I will keep pointing out the new podcasts/forums over the year here (and on Twitter/FriendFeed/Facebook) and I hope you give them a listen/read. And I hope I get invited to Boston again next year. I really like this project and think it can become big and popular over time. You can follow World-Science on Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook and download their podcasts on iTunes.
Unfortunately, unlike last year, I was staying in Boston only one night and did not have time for a meetup/dinner with friends, bloggers and twitterers. If only I knew I’d spend six hours at Logan airport waiting for my flight home, I could have organized one. Eh, perhaps next year….
Being in Boston, I had to miss both Pecha Kucha Raleigh and this month’s Monti. Can’t get everywhere!
You already know I spent some time struggling with my laptop. I am also in the middle of teaching my BIO101 course, lectures on Wednesday nights, labs on Saturday mornings.
And yesterday, for the third year in a row, Abel Pharmboy and I went to Misha Angrist’s class to talk about science blogging, social networks and media. Last two years, Sheril was the third part of the trio, but as she just moved to Texas, we went without her. We’ll need a replacement for her next year, I guess. This is always a fun thing to do – Misha always has interesting, engaged students.
And tonight, we are off to the Salon of Music, Poetry, and Theater at Common Ground Theatre in Durham.

Today’s must-reads on science communication/journalism

Journalism has always been communal
Top Google queries about scientists: should we be surprised?
Getting more out of scientific content
Telling tales…
The Science Reader: A Crowd-Sourced Profile
Journalism and the public understanding of how science works. A suggested remedy.
So what do the journalists and scientists think?
Evaluating science journalism – with a Matrix!
Ed Yong, Colin Schultz, & More: A bloggitty twitterview conversation on sci-journalism, awesomeness, dirt digging, and wonkiness.
Understanding push-pull market forces and promoting science to under-served audiences
Push vs. Pull strategies in science communication
More on ‘Science blogs and public engagement with science’
Best science writing from the blogosphere!
New blog on science journalism and communication
Engaging the public on science? Surely you’re joking!
Now put all of those ideas together and draw a single conclusion?

New blog on science journalism and communication

First, I would like to welcome Gozde Zorlu to the blogosphere – check out her blog and say Hello. Gozde is a science journalism student with Connie St.Louis (the same class as Christine Ottery who many of you met at ScienceOnline2010).
Gozde is interested in many aspects of science communication and journalism and more:

Here, I’ll be catapulting into the big world wide web my exploration of the social, cultural and political implications of research in science, medicine and the environment. Also, I’ll be blogging about issues to do with science in the media, science education and policy.

In her first post – Journalism and the public understanding of how science works. A suggested remedy., which nominally is a response to this post of mine, but really addresses more deeply the Nature article by Toby Murcott that calls for opening peer reviewers’ comments to journalists, Gozde begins a series of serious, thoughtful essays on the topic. Go and read it, post comments, respond.
You can also follow her on Twitter.
Update: Gozde has now posted her second part of the three-part series: So what do the journalists and scientists think?
Update: I have updated all the links above to reflect the recent migration of the blog to a new address.

Push vs. Pull strategies in science communication

Danielle Lee, who just defended her PhD last week (her defense was livestreamed and livetweeted and liveblogged – Congratulations!!!!!!!!!) wrote a very thought-provoking post this morning – Understanding push-pull market forces and promoting science to under-served audiences. Go read it now.
If general public will not actively seek science content (‘pull’) than perhaps we can have the content come to them wherever they are (‘push’). But people are scattered over gazillions of media places! How do we get to them everywhere? One answer is to try to get many people to contribute science-y stories everywhere (or, as I said before, we don’t need one Carl Sagan, we need hundreds…. or thousands of them, each in a different media spot).
But the other important factor, and this is something that Danielle points out and I did not think of clearly before, is that the general population is not homogenous. There are groups that are not scattered all over the fragmented media but flock to specific media outlets that cater to them – media outlets they tend to own or run or work at or write for or have influence on.
Danielle goes into detail about the media consumption of the African American community, but her thoughts apply to other groups as well, e.g., Latinos, or gays, etc. This may also apply to various blogospheres, e.g., mommybloggers, atheist bloggers, feminist bloggers – all groups with strong group identity, congregating at a relatively limited number of media outlets on a regular basis.
One thing that Danielle noted is that media outlets that target African Americans prefer if the science stories are “Africo-Americanized”, i.e., that they specifically hook the audience with something that is directly relevant to that community (and supposedly no other community). Why? Cool science stories are cool for everyone. I suspect that this was more editor-think than the actual response of the audience to Danielle’s science articles that were cool without being ‘Africo-Americanized’.
And some of the communities are more inclined to be interested in science than others, especially those communities that see themselves as ‘reality-based’, thus inherently science-friendly. Thus progressive blogs like DailyKos have regular science coverage both on the main page and in the diaries – cool science stories, as well as science/political controversial topics. Atheist blogs are sometimes indistinguishable from science blogs. Feminist bloggers, like Lindsay Beyerstein, Jesse and Amanda at Pandagon and some of the community bloggers at Shakesville regularly touch on science topics (especially those with either public health concerns, or environmental concerns, or with political controversies associated with them).
But how do we get science stories, purely cool or group-targeted, in front of other audiences, e.g., those based on race/ethnicity, or gender/orientation? Are whites much more scattered across the media than minorities or do they also congregate around their various interests? Where do they congregate? How do we ‘push’ science there where they are? Not just online, but also in big corporate media, especially television?

Science Journalism must-reads of the day

An article in Christian Science Monitor, reporting from the AAAS meeting last month, quotes me in a couple of places: As Climate Change debate wages on, scientists turn to Hollywood for help – read the whole thing (it may not be obvious at first, but there are two pages there).
The must-read of the day is Ed Yong’s The value of ‘this is cool’ science stories:

But for now, as newspapers decline and shrink, the worry is that the internet will only cater for established interests. As Colin asks, “All of my interviews have pointed out that strong story and strong characters can get someone to read your science story, but what if they don’t open the section?”
Opening a section, of course, is an example of “pull marketing”, where users and consumers yank in the information that they actively demand. But the internet’s strengths will increasingly rely on “push marketing” where people foist material towards consumers. This isn’t just about traditional paid advertising. Social media ensures that we are all each others’ editors and advertisers. Through email, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Buzz and more, we shove content into the attentional spotlights of our contacts.
And this is an area where “this-is-cool” stories really excel.

Eric Roston joins in the discussion with Thought Experiment: New Journalism Division of Labor:

It’s widely understood and celebrated that the categories “journalist” and “blogger” are insufficient to capture the richness and opportunity–really, the once-in-five-centuries revolution–that electronic media bring to civic discourse and investigation of people in power (including journalists and bloggers). After this year’s Science Online conference, I started wondering, though, how can we think about divisions of labor within a new media environment that so frequently has all the discernible sub-structures of a bowl of soup? For efficiency, I am condensing the words “journalist” and “blogger” into “jogger.”

Perhaps it is j-schools that are most resistant to change, mis-educating their charges? Dave Taylor had a telling experience: A class of CU journalism seniors, and only one was blogging?:

Ultimately, it was an interesting conversation, but it’s been a while since I felt like I was in the position of defending what I see as the natural evolution of media and journalism. As I feared, my impression of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication remains that it’s a dinosaur bellowing furiously at the impending climate change, it’s King Canute standing on the beach yelling “Ocean, be thou still! I bid thee come not nearer to my feet!” even as the waves implacably roll in.
The world of information dissemination is evolving before our eyes, going from four channels of television to hundreds to thousands, from one or two major newspapers per community to dozens, and from mainstream outlets to everything being an outlet. Journalism is surely just as much about speed of dissemination as it is digging up the muck (a relatively modern invention in the journalistic world, btw), so Twitter users breaking the news of the Chilean earthquake way before any news outlets do is a harbinger of the future, not a monster to be feared.

Brian Switek wrote two long and very useful posts for anyone considering writing a popular science book – worth reading and saving: So you want to write a pop-sci book, Part 1: From idea to agent and So you want to write a pop-sci book, Part 2: The value of blogs.
This is a little older, but I did not see it until today, still relevant: Journalistic malpractice on global warming :

Since I’ve advocated a more explicit use of the word “lie”, I’ll go ahead and follow my own advice: that Daily Mail headline is a lie.

Finally, I asked (and many people are trying to argue more than answer) What is Journalism?

What is Journalism?

For several decades, journalism happened only in the three ‘traditional’ methods of communication: print, radio and television. The means of production of these is expensive, thus owned only by wealthy individuals or corporations, or heavily subsidized by such (through advertising and such). One unifying trait of the three technical modes of traditional media is that they are all broadcast media: one-to-many. As such a state of things persisted for several decades and journalism got professionalized during this period, a common cultural definition of journalism emerged: whatever is done by professionals paid by media corporations owned by wealthy individuals or corporations (“if it’s in the paper, it’s journalism” mindset….including the horoscope, comics, obituaries and ads).
Today, there are new means of production of media which are very cheap – everyone with electricity, online access and some kind of gadget (e.g. computer or smart-phone) can produce media. The new methods of communication, the “New Media” is also characterized by the ability for two-way communication: it is not broadcast any more, but many-to-many. This fuzzies the definition of journalism in several important ways: a) everyone can do it, b) many do it for free, c) it is a conversation, not a lecture. Journalism has been deprofessionalised.
The traditional definition of journalism, the one that held for several decades, does not stand any more. It does not apply to the world in the early 21st century, just as it did not apply to the early 20th century. The long intervening period of certainty as to what journalism is, is gone.
In a comment on a blog, I wrote that the delimiting line of what is and what isn’t journalism will be arbitrary:

“This all hinges on the definition of “journalism” which is quickly expanding these days to include many forms that did not exist until recently. The natural response by professional journalists is to recoil and to excessively narrow down the definition of journalism to only ‘investigative journalism’ as that is one last area where they feel they can at least stand on equal ground with millions of amateurs. On the other hand, the over-expansive definition of journalism to equate it with ‘communication’ (any and all of communication, regardless of the medium, author, if money changes hands, copyright owner, etc.) blurs the question too much.
Where is the dividing line between journalism and non-journalistic communication? I don’t know. But wherever it is, it is arbitrary, i.e., something we can fight about, or agree on, but really just a social/cultural decision we need to make.”

I am not sure if the word “arbitrary” was a good choice. What I meant is that the dividing line will be arbitrated by the society at large. The representatives of New and Old Media are pulling the dividing line in two opposite directions. The New Media folks (like me) are trying to expand it to include as much as possible (though probably, maybe or just perhaps not the daily oral conversations, personal e-mails and DMs, your shopping list on a sticky-note, your holiday photographs, or even the crossword-puzzle in the newspaper). The Old Media folks, feeling threatened, are trying to narrow it down. Different people use different criteria for how narrow, or along which axis, but the usual examples, when analyzed to their cores, are narrowing it down to ONLY investigative reporting, ONLY brilliantly stylish writing, ONLY reporting that was paid for by a media company, ONLY stuff that occurs in traditional channels (print, radio, TV), ONLY one-to-many lecturing (as it implies expertise, which many-to-many conversation dispels as a myth), ONLY reporting that pretends to be “objective” (i.e., showing ‘both sides’), and/or ONLY reporting that involves interviewing people.
Of course, people (“sources” – important term: sources of what? Information, quotes, opinion?) are middle-men to information and they are untrustworthy. Information how the world really works is much more important than what different people think how the world works. Thus showing the (link to raw) data is much more trustworthy than showing quotes (with or without a link to the full transcript). Especially in science journalism. Journalists focus on people, what they do and what they say. They use that as a proxy for learning about the world. Scientists distrust people and go to the data directly. If journalists did that, adopted the scientific method in their own work, science journalism would be much better. But doing this requires expertise, almost as much as working scientists have. Which means that a good science journalist will a) specialize in one broad area of science, b) work closely with scientists and PIOs to get the full scope of information (on top of profuse reading of the primary literature) and c) have their work critiqued and improved by the audience, many of whom are themselves scientific experts in that field. In other words, modern journalism is a collaborative endeavor, not a solitary act.
So, what is and what isn’t journalism is changing. It is a very fuzzy line right now. It will probably remain fuzzy, but at least the dividing fuzzy line may be centered somewhere so at least extremes will be clearly Yes or No. Where that ‘somewhere’ will be is something that the society at large will settle down on in the future. It is hard to predict where exactly that will be. But the definition of journalism is not something that we can decree. It will be something that emerges from the practice.

What is journalism and do PIOs do it? And what’s with advertising?

Elia Ben-Ari, on her ‘To Be Determined’ blog, wrote an excellent, thought-provoking post on the fine distinctions between science journalists and Press Information Officers: More on the Science Journalism Ecosystem and What Is and Is Not Science Journalism

…And an understanding of the underlying science is certainly helpful in reporting the “something smells fishy” stories as well as the “wow, that’s neat” stories. I maintain that one person can and may do both types of science reporting, so it doesn’t make sense to separate “investigative journalism” from “science journalism.”…

Interesting comments there as well….
Michael Tobis wrote three relevant posts related to this question on ‘Only In It For The Gold’ recently: Long Strange Trip:

…Science journalism in the future will mostly be conducted by scientists….

Michael Tobis again: Does Science Even Matter?

My position is first, that science can no longer depend on the press, or the institutional press office, or pop science media to get important messages out. That much has become blazingly obvious. Second, that certain messages of science are necessary to sound governance, that science is a crucial component of collective decision making in modern society. As a conclusion, it is necessary for science as a culture to participate directly in public communication. It may not be possible for science as an institution to do so. Consequently science as a culture may need to create new institutions and certainly new career paths to more effectively participate in consequential public discourse.

Michael Tobis yet again: Loose Cannon in the Press Office?

If there are temptations about to misrepresent science, it is the responsibility of scientists to stop them. Looking at the matter from the point of view of the young career-seeker, apparently there are two career paths for “science writers”; one being science journalism and the other being the “PIO” or “Press Information Officer” for a scientific research institution. The failures of the first have been crucial to our recent problems, but we should spare a moment to consider the second group.

Of course, we can answer questions ‘is A or B journalism’ only if we agree on the definition of journalism. So, Mike Orcutt at ‘Meta-Morph It’, asks us to help define it: Explanation:

How can we have a discussion about the journalism’s role before we discuss what journalism — either in general or specifically within the context of science communication — is? A conversation between a scientist and journalist, about the journalist’s role in the communication of science, can be productive only if the interested parties work together to determine a mutually-held definition of the term in question.

Finally, Paul Raeburn at KSJT thinks that support for Charlotte Observer’s and Raleigh News&Observer’s science pages by Duke Energy is fishy: Questioning ‘NPR-like’ funding for newspaper science section:

Thames said he began a search for “someone in the local community” who would underwrite a science section. That helpful community resident turned out to be Duke Energy, one of the largest energy companies in the nation.

Strange! Newspapers have been lamenting that advertisers, their only source of income, have been leaving them in droves thus precipitating lay-offs and bankruptcies across the industry. And now that one of them decides to come back and throw some pennies, that’s a problem?
OK, let me try an analogy. This is like if my rich Uncle Joe was the only one giving me start-up money for my new business. Let’s say it’s a family newspaper. He writes me a nice, big check that can cover a year’s effort, and in return he wants me to place his ads in it for free. Uncle Joe is an interesting fella, like any family will have. He can be nice and generous. And then he can say something awful. Or he keeps voting for that other, wrong, party every election day….
So, funded for the year, I get started with my newspaper. Then, one day, I say something mean about Uncle Joe in my newspaper. He probably does not read it. If he does, he probably looks down at it and laughs, but thinks it is his duty as a rich member of the family to help out nieces and nephews get on their feet and become independent. If he goes mad, that is just bad business sense on his part – he cannot get his money back (that was the deal, signed by both) and if he says/does something nasty, he just gets slammed harder in the next issue. To which rich Aunt Matilda responds, with glee (she hates Uncle Joe), by promising money for my 2nd year in business 😉
Duke Energy is local. It is like a funky rich Uncle around here. The first one to ask for money. If that does not work, there are other rich uncles around….

Science Journalism/Communication week in review

Lots of interesting stuff this week, so I decided to put everything in a single post – makes it easier for everyone….
First, there was a very nice article in Columbia Journalism Review (which someone subscribed me to – I guess because my name appeared there the other week….someone is trying to remind me how it feels to read stuff written on actual paper!) about the beginning of a resurgence of science journalism in North Carolina. The article covers all the bases, focusing mostly on the new Monday science pages produced collaboratively by The Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer, including the history of how the project came about (which I did not know until now). It also mentions ScienceOnline2010 and then delves some into the new online project ScienceInTheTriangle.org (the website of which is about to undergo some nice redesign and renewed activity soon):

Colin Schultz is writing an interesting blog about science journalism – check out his archives for older posts. But specifically, I want to draw your attention to the interviews he recently conducted with some of the interesting people in science journalism, especially with Carl Zimmer, David Dobbs and Ed Yong (only John Timmer is missing to have a complete ‘Rebooting science journalism’ panel from ScienceOnline2010).
Speaking of interviews, my Scio10 series of interviews with people interested in science communication from various angles is growing fast and strong (I already have two more lined up for next week).
I was also busy myself, with three provocative blog posts on the topic: Why it is important for media articles to link to scientific papers, Science blogs and public engagement with science and New science journalism ecosystem: new inter-species interactions, new niches, all three of which received quite a lot of response around the blogo/twitter-sphere (mostly, surprisingly, quite positive!). The last one, especially, appears to fit in this week’s theme of The Future of Context.
NYTimes had a nice long feature about a mommyblogging conference, which is wonderful, but made me unhappy that a similar article never appeared in NYTimes for any of our four ScienceOnline conferences – don’t tell me there is absolutely NO audience for that!?
I would like to go to The Online News Association meeting but for that to happen, you need to vote for and comment on my panel.
Chris Brodie’s class on Explaining Science to the Public (introduced here) has posted several interesting blog posts analyzing three long newspaper articles by Carl Zimmer.
Dennis Meredith, author of the excellent Explaining Research book, has a new press release – Cultural Flaw Hampers Scientists in Public Battles, Says New Book. He was also a guest of Ernie Hood (current chair of SCONC) on his weekly science radio show Radio In Vivo and wrote a new blog post – Communicating Research in 3-D Virtual Worlds.
Also listen to the interview with Andrew Revkin – The Death of Science Writing, and the Future of Catastrophe.
Finally, Chris Perrien took that board (remember?) everyone signed at the end of ScienceOnline2010 and framed it. Yesterday he presented it to us during lunch at RTP and everyone pulled out the iPhones and took pictures – here is one (you can see more on my Facebook profile….):
scio10 placard2.jpg

New science journalism ecosystem: new inter-species interactions, new niches

Almost a year ago, Nature published a set of opinion articles, including Science journalism: Toppling the priesthood by Toby Murcott. I did not react at the time, but JR Minkel and Jessica Palmer did and got some interesting responses in the comments. The article was brought to my attention by Gozde Zorlu who is ruminating on the same ideas and will have a blog post about it shortly (and I will let you know when it’s up).
The article covers a lot of ground and has many layers. I finally read it and these are just some really quick thoughts, just to provoke discussion…..
First, Murcott is complaining about being essentially a lay-person outside of his own domain in biochemistry. That is true. Science reporters who don’t have any scientific background are in an even worse shape – they definitely have a handicap, but not something they cannot overcome with years of study. But for this, they need to have the freedom to focus on only one area of science, e.g., Andy Revkin focusing on climate, Carl Zimmer on evolution, etc. I wrote a little bit about this before.
If you have spent some time in science before moving into journalism, you understand that years of total immersion in the field are necessary to fully understand it – I mean a narrow field! And not just the purely scientific information, but also historical, philosophical and social context, who-is-who in the field, relative strengths of various hypotheses, etc. You understand that it is impossible for a single person to gain a full understanding of every area of science.
– Can you play violin?
– Sure, of course
– Have you ever played?
– No. But it looks easy, I’m sure I can do it.
This is how non-scientists often think about science. This includes some journalists, until they get started on science reporting and realize that it’s not as easy as it looks. But their editors do not grok it. Editors think of ‘science’ as a single thing – there is a sports-guy and a fashion-guy and a science-guy in the newsroom and they get assignments accordingly. Which means that the poor science reporter has to report on everything from cosmology to math to medicine to ecology with no time to actually study these areas sufficiently to understand them. Of course they get nervous and exhausted and touchy… 😉
But in the era where newsrooms are firing in-house journalists and relying more and more on freelancers, this is an opportunity for freelance journalists to put a stake into a particular territory: specialize in one field and refuse to write stories outside it. That way, a journalist who has become, over years of study and reporting, an expert in field A, will only report on A, will be on rolodexes (I guess not virtual but real physical ones) of every editor in the country/world for stories on A and will be asked all the time by everyone to cover A. And will do it really well. Each editor will have a list of experts on A, B, C and every other area of science. With specialization, biochemists will not have to risk showing off their ignorance of astronomy, media organizations will know they have all topics covered by the best of the best, and the general quality of reporting science will increase.
In the next segment of the article, Murcott seems to want more investigative science journalism. But, compare this to this. Connie St.Louis and I have the opposite ideas what science journalism is. I am not specifically targeting Connie, it just happens that I am aware of her post that puts into words, very clearly, what many other journalists say or at least hint at.
Everything that I think is science journalism, she dismisses as not being ‘real’ science journalism: science reportage and explaining. And one aspect of it that she thinks is the real science journalism is the only one I think is really not – “investigative science journalism” is, in my book, just the regular investigative journalism in which the people under scrutiny just happen accidentally to be scientists. The former (science reporting and explaining) requires that the journalist understands science, the latter (investigating potential misconduct by people who happen to be scientists) does not. As I said before, if the investigation involves analysis of data, it is done by scientists and reported in specialized media: scientific journals (these can be then translated into lay language by journalists and reported to the general audience). If the investigation involves potential misconduct of humans who happen to be scientists, it is done by journalists, but it is not science journalism any more – it is more something like political journalism (as misconduct usually involves money and prestige).
Steve Mirsky (editor at Scientific American: here on Twitter ) once said, and I agree with him, that all of science journalism should be activist: evangelizing for truth (not capitalized). There is no mealy-mouthed HeSaidSheSaid, False-Balance, View-From-Nowhere tabulation of opinions held by people. Science journalism is straightforward: this is how the world works and this is how we learned it.
Which brings me to another important question: why professional journalists dismiss Press Information Officers. If journalists think that journalism that investigates scientists is what should be called ‘science journalism’, and see that what PIOs are doing is not that, they will not think of PIOs as journalists. On the other hand, if you agree with me that investigation of scientists is not science journalism, but reporting and explaining science is, than PIOs, many of whom have science degrees, are actually doing the brunt of science journalism these days. Sure, not all of them are perfect, and not all press releases are good, but they are getting better (as science majors are replacing j-school majors as PIOs at many institutions), they are, seeing how media is crumbling, starting to see themselves as serious journalists filling the void left by the massive layoffs of science reporters in the MSM, and are writing better and better copy, usually much better than what remaining newsroom reporters write under horrendous deadlines and pressure.
In other words, as we realize that scientists, PIOs, journalists and audience are in it together, collaborating on science reporting, we need to eliminate this antagonism between newsroom journalists and institutional journalists (formerly known as PIOs). For that antagonism to be eliminated, the two need to agree on what the definition of science journalism is. And I don’t think defining it as ‘investigating potential misconduct of scientists’ is a good and healthy definition. It is much more productive to leave that kind of stuff to political reporters (who will be tipped off by scientists themselves, as was always the case: all data-fudging was first discovered by other scientists, the only people with expertise to notice it in the first place) and have everyone focus on real science journalism – reporting and explaining science.
Next, Murcott wants to move science journalism from a) presenting facts (including results of latest studies), to b) presenting how scientists work and their method. He, and many others, forget that the key element is the third level: c) trust. Read this carefully to understand why. So, all three things need to be reported. Eyeing every paper and every press release as suspect, and treating scientists as dishonest until proven otherwise, is one of the journalistic techniques that undermines the trust in science. Whose side are you on, guys? Creationists, GW-denialists, HIV-denialists and anti-vaccers? Job of a journalist is to explain the world as it is. Science is the best method to figure out how the world works. Use this method as a journalistic method.
Scientific method has several (actually many) elements in phases, but one can oversimplify here: get an idea, test it, communicate it. Yes, communicating science is a part of scientific method. Which is why both scientists and journalists have to do it, hopefully together as allies, not as opponents eyeing each other with suspicion. See also many of the reports from scio10 – almost all of them focus on the need for collaboration between scientists, press officers and journalists, not antagonism. It’s a new ecosystem today. And the new niche for science journalists is NOT the top predator any more – the mindset has to shift from the competitive to a collaborative view of media ecology.
More and more people studying the evolution of media are coming around to the idea that the job of a journalist these days is a person who collects, aggregates and interprets information. Even data.
The story is important, as humans are storytellers by nature, but the story is a hook that takes people to the wealth of underlying information, the background, and the data. Each news-report needs to be embedded in a broader structure that also contains an “explainer“. Which is why it is essential for the story, the “hook”, to link to all the relevant background information and data.
Finally, we get to Murcott’s wish to see reviews….the reviews that scientists have written during the process of peer-review of manuscripts. Murcott, pressed for time, thinks that being able, as a journalist, to see the reviews, would help him understand the story better and glean some of the context that he is missing because is writing a story outside of his area of expertise and has not time to study it first. In essence, he is asking for a shortcut that helps him do his job. But he is not considering how this would affect the review process.
First, it is important to remind everyone that peer-review is a very new thing. Only one minor paper by Einstein went through peer-review. Nature only started experimenting with it in the late 1960s. Yet lots and lots of great science was published before this was instituted. There is no data supporting the view that peer-review actually does much good.
We at PLoS ONE are trying to improve the process. What we have noticed (and most of our academic editors and authors agree) is that by eliminating the need for reviewers to evaluate if a manuscript is novel, exciting, revolutionary, paradigm-shifting, mind-boggling and Earth-shaking, and only asking them to evaluate the technical aspects of the work, the review becomes MUCH better:
As the scientific paper itself evolves, more and more of the peer-review will happen after publication, on the paper or connected to it and journalists need to be a part of it.
You can search the Web for many discussions of “open review” and you will see that there are many more cons than pros. The reviewers will find it difficult to be frank. Fewer people will agree to review (and there is already too many manuscripts for the available number of reviewers). Showing reviews to journalists would have exactly the same effect, for good or ill. Having a journalist see reviews is …a crutch for a journo who does not have the time, or expertise, or inclination to do the heavy lifting of personal education and everybody would object to this, rightly so.
Specialization of journalists – each grabbing one’s own area of expertise – and the collaborative journalism done by scientists, PIOs, journalists and audience, would make a ‘peek’ at reviewers’ comments unnecessary and irrelevant. The collective WILL have all the necessary expertise and historical/philosophical/sociological/theoretical/methodological context to get the story (and attached data/information) right.

The Online News Association meeting – vote for my panel

The Online News Association organizes a meeting every year (and gives Online Journalism Awards there). The next one will be in October 28-30, 2010 in Washington, D.C.
The program is formed by the online news community submitting proposals, then everyone else voting the proposals up or down. I guess that the organizers also have some say in it (especially if the voting produces a horrible gender imbalance – easy to happen with so many proposals put forward by men).
The proposals are now all up online and ready for your votes – you need to register (they have to avoid spammers, robots, automated votes, multiple votes from individuals, etc.) which is easy and quick, then start clicking on thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons on each session. There are some cool sessions/panels proposed there, e.g., by Andria Krewson and by Jay Rosen + Dave Winer., to name just a couple. In case of panels, you will only see the name of the person who proposed the panel, not the names of people who would be panelists, as it is not yet known for many of them if they may or may not be able to make the panel.
At the last minute, prompted by friends, I put my proposal into the hat:
Today’s Science Journalism is a Very Different Animal:

At the time when so many policy decisions rely on science and when science newsrooms are cut to the bone, scientists, bloggers, press information officers and freelance journalists are starting to work together to provide accurate and timely scientific information online. We’ll discuss the forms of such collaborations and show some examples.

I hope you vote my session up (and post supporting comments if so inclined – these may sway the organizers). If my proposal gets included, I will be able to contact potential panelists and then announce their names once they say Yes. The competition is tough and some of these people (many of them, in fact) have much larger pools of audience on their platforms and in social media than I do, so I need your help: vote and ask your friends to vote as well.

Why it is important for media articles to link to scientific papers

You may be aware that, as of recently, one of my tasks at work is to monitor media coverage of PLoS ONE articles. This is necessary for our own archives and monthly/annual reports, but also so I could highlight some of the best media coverage on the everyONE blog for everyone to see. As PLoS ONE publishes a large number of articles every week, we presume that many of you would appreciate getting your attention drawn to that subset of articles that the media found most interesting.
So, for example, as I missed last week due to my trip to AAAS, I posted a two-week summary of media coverage this Monday. And that took far more time and effort (and some silent cursing) than one would expect. Why?
I don’t think I am a slouch at googling stuff. Some people joke that the entire Internet passes through my brain before it goes to the final audience. After all, I have been monitoring the Web for mentions of ‘PLoS’ and ‘Public Library of Science’ on blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and elsewhere for a few years now. If I don’t catch a mention within minutes of it being posted, you can bet one of my many online friends/followers/subscribers is bound to quickly let me know by e-mail or Direct Messaging somewhere. If someone says something nice about PLoS, I am quick to post a ThankYou note. If someone asks a question, I try to answer or to connect the person with the appropriate member of the PLoS staff. If someone is publicly musing about submitting a manuscript to one of our journals, I am right there to give encouragement. If someone makes a factual error, I gently correct it. It is very, very rare that I need to raise the Immense Online Armies because someone is wrong on the Internet 😉
So, why is it difficult then to compile a collection of weekly media coverage? Let me walk you through the process….
First, as you probably already know, PLoS makes no distinction between Old and New media. We have bloggers on our press list who apply/sign-up in the same way and abide by the same rules as traditional journalists (and, unlike mainstream media, bloggers NEVER break embargos, not once in the past three years since we started adding bloggers to our press list). For the kind of coverage we prefer to see, we point bloggers to the ResearchBlogging.org criteria. In return, bloggers can send trackbacks to our articles, their work is showcased side-by-side with the traditional outlets in our weekly posts, they can be discovered via Google Blogsearch, Postgenomic and ResearchBlogging.org links directly from each article, and one blogger per month wins a t-shirt and special recognition.
So, I start with blog posts first. The first thing I do is take a look at ResearchBlogging.org. Those are the best of the best posts – not merely mentioning our articles, but adding analysis, commentary, critique, context and additional information. How do I find them? I just search the site for the phrase ‘journal.pone‘. That search brings up every single post that mentions a PLoS ONE article because that phrase is a part of every possible form of the URL of the article (including the shortest one, which includes just the DOI). If a post links to our article (and that is the only way to get aggregated on ResearchBlogging.org) I will find it this way. Needless to say, this process takes just a few minutes per week.
Knowing that there are some good blogs out there that are not registered at ResearchBlogging.org (which is strange and unfathomable why – RB.org is a ‘stamp-of-approval’ place for science blogs recognized by the outside world of journals and media, as well as a nice way to get extra recognition and traffic, and even awards), I then repeat the same search – for ‘journal.pone‘ – on Google Blogsearch. This may bring up a few more posts that I did not catch yet. Occasionally, some of these are good. Another couple of minutes. Blogs are now done. Move on to traditional media….
And this is where the Hell starts. Try searching Google News for ‘journal.pone‘…?! All I get are a couple of prominent blogs that I have already counted, e.g., those blogs that are listed by Google News (scienceblogs.com blogs, Ars Technica, Wired blogs, etc.). Where are the others?
The problem is, nobody in the mainstream media links to papers.
So I have to search for PLoS and for Public Library Of Science and then figure out which ones are covering specifically PLoS ONE articles (sometimes they don’t specify, sometimes they name the wrong journal – last week an article on PLoS Current-Influenza was reported to be in PLoS ONE by a number of outlets copying the error from each other). Then I have to search for keywords for individual articles I suspect may have received some coverage. Last week, for example, I searched for “swallows+antioxidants” and “St. Birgitta”, among many others. This lasts for hours! And at the end I am still not 100% sure I caught everything. How frustrating!
Not just is there a big difference in time and effort spent between finding blog posts and finding media articles, but there is an even bigger disparity when one considers what results come out of these searches. I have been doing this for a month now. I expected that there would be poor blog posts and poor media articles, that there would be good blog posts and good media articles, and that there would occasionally be some excellent blog posts and excellent media articles. So far, that is true…. except I have yet to discover an excellent media article. As a rule, the very best coverage of every paper in the past month was done by a blogger or two or three. Then there are some other, good pieces of coverage in both the New and Old media, and then there are some really bad pieces in both realms as well (not all blog posts I count here are really bad – they may just be too detailed, technical and dry for lay audience because the blogger is intentionally targeting scientific peers as audience, which is fair thing to acknowledge).
So, every week, it takes me a few minutes to find the very best coverage (which is on blogs, usually those aggregated on ResearchBlogging.org). And then I spend hours looking for remnants, in the traditional media, which turn out to be so-so, some OK, some not so good, some horrible. If I wasn’t paid to do this, I would not do it – it cannot be good for my long-term mental health.
The resistance to post links is an atavism, a remnant of an old age before the Web. I know (because I asked many times) many good science journalists keep trying to add links, but the editors say No. The traditional media has still not caught on to the Ethic of the Link, which is an essential aspect of ethics of online communication.
I can think, off the top of my head, of three good reasons why everyone who publishes online should include a link to the scientific paper described in the article (just post the DOI link that comes with the press release if you are on the press list – if it does not resolve immediately, it is not your fault, you can always blame the journals for being slow on it – though this should never happen with PLoS articles):
Reason One: I will not go crazy every week. I am assuming that every scientific publisher has people on the staff whose task is to monitor media coverage and each one of these people is cussing and cursing YOU, the Media, every day. Try to make friends with people who provide you with source material on a regular basis.
Reason Two: Media coverage is one of the many elements of article-level metrics. Furthermore, links from the media affect the number of views and downloads of the article, and those are also elements of article-level metrics. Number of views/downloads then, in the future, affects the number of citations the work gets which is also and element of article-level metrics. Thus omitting the link skewes the ability of readers and observers to evaluate the papers properly.
The current ecosystem of science communication has a scientific paper at its core, additions to the paper (e.g., notes, comments and ratings, as well as Supplemental materials, videos posted on Scivee.tv, etc) as a shell, and incoming and outgoing links – trackbacks, cited papers, citing papers, links to other papers in the same Collection, links to other papers with the same keywords, and yes, incoming links from the media – as connections building a network: the entire inter-connected ecosystem of scientific knowledge.
By not linking to scientific papers, traditional media is keeping itself outside of the entire ecosystem of empirical knowledge. By doing this, the traditional media is fast making itself irrelevant.
Reason Three: if an article in the media discusses a scientific study, that scientific paper is the source material for the article. If the link is missing, this is an automatic red flag for the readers. What is the journalist hiding? Why is the article making it difficult for readers to fact-check the journalist? Something does not smell good if the link is not provided (or worse, it is impossible to figure out even who are the authors and in which journal did they publish – yes, that is more common than you think).
The instant and automatic response of the readers is mistrust. Every time you fail to link to the paper, you further erode whatever trust and reputation you still may have with the audience. You soon cease to be a legitimate source of information. Sure, most readers will not go hunting for the paper to read it in order to fact-check you. But two or three will, and they will let everyone else know if your article is trustworthy or not, either in the comments under the article on your own site, or on their blogs which will be quickly picked up by Google (remember: Google loves blogs).
So please, media types, hurry up and catch up with the world. The 21st century is already a decade in – you really need to do some very fast learning. Right now. Or you’ll go extinct in a nanosecond. And despite my reputation, I never said that I’d consider that result to be a Good Thing. We are in this together, you just need to do your part. To begin with, start linking.

North Carolina science journalism/blogging projects getting noticed

If you are interested in the topic of science journalism, how it’s changing, what’s new, and who’s who in it, you are probably already reading Knight Science Journalism Tracker. If not, you should start now.
They have recently been digging around and finding projects with which I am involved in one way or another. For example, a few days ago, they profiled science blogs in general and scienceblogs.com in particular, but mainly focused on ResearchBlogging.org which aggregates and gives a stamp of approval to blog posts covering peer-reviewed research. The aggregator is a local thing – it is a brainchild of Dave Munger here in Davidson, NC, and it was first announced to the world at the 2008 Science Online conference here in RTP.
Blog posts that show up there are also tracked by PLoS articles as a component of article-level metrics, and the blogging guidelines for getting onto the PLoS press list are taken directly from ResearchBlogging.org. Aggregation on ResearchBlogging.org is also a requirement for eligibility for our Blog Pick Of The Month prize.
A couple of days ago, folks at Knight Science Journalism Tracker stumbled onto an article in Raleigh News & Observer and were curious where the original local science reporting is coming from, knowing that the paper has laid off its science reporters a while ago.
Having a lot of well-connected readers and commenters, they got their question answered quickly: the brand new Monday Science section, a collaborative project of Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer (both owned by McClatchy group).
Instead of full-time reporters sitting in the newsroom, the articles are written by freelance writers (mostly) residing in the area, including Dave Munger (remember Cognitive Daily blog?), DeLene Beeland, Sabine Vollmer (former science reporter at N&O), Cassie Rodenberg and a number of others (mainly writers organized around SCONC).
But the new Monday section is not the only thing the folks at Knight Science Journalism Tracker learned about in this effort. They also heard about – and thus blogged about – Science In The Triangle.org (and its blog), a new online project designed to fill in the vacuum in science, environmental and medical reporting left by the deep cuts in local newsrooms. The site is still in its infancy, but we are working on it. Currently we have one videographer (Ross Maloney), one professional journalist (Sabine Vollmer), and two bloggers (DeLene Beeland and myself). I hope you take a look, subscribe/bookmark, and watch the site evolve in the future.

AAAS 2010 meeting – the Press Room….why?

I arrived in San Diego on Thursday night and checked in my hotel that was 6 miles away, almost in Mexico – I could see the lights of Tijuana from the hotel. I had to take a cab each morning and evening.
On Friday morning, I got up bright and early and came to the convention center, lugging my huge and heavy laptop with me. And that was the first surprise of the day – there was no wifi anywhere in the Convention Center, and almost no power outlets anywhere: something I am not used to as the meetings I tend to go to are pretty techie and take care of such details.
Not even speakers/panelists had free wifi. Nobody noticed, as they all used PowerPoint anyway (did you see the Bad Presentation Bingo cards?). But our session was about the Web and we wanted to use the Web to show our stuff, so our panel’s host PAID for online access for us to use in our session.
A journalist wanted to interview me after lunch so we went to the press center to see if there was a free interviewing room there. Aha! There is a press center there! Power! Wifi! Free coffee! Yee-haw!
Oh! No! They had employees standing in front, letting in only the people with green name-tags – the Press tags. How quaint! I had a blue one, just an Attendee (though that was an error as well – I should have gotten the Speaker one, but it really did not matter for any practical purposes). So, the only way I could get in was if led by someone with a Press badge, leading me in as an interviewee. That was, again, a surprise to me as I have been using press centers at meetings for years, most recently at the Lindau Nobel conference in Germany and FEST Trieste in Italy.
So, I was there, with the journalist. In the press room. I used that opportunity to ask if I could also get a Press name-tag. I also wanted to use that moment to get into the press center in order to get online and perhaps blog something about the first sessions I saw, etc.
The AAAS employees manning the desks in the press room were unsure what to do about me – they did not belligerently say “No, you are just a blogger”, they just did not want to risk making their bosses mad by making an inadvertent mistake of giving me a press pass. After all, I was not officially affiliated with any traditional media outlet, they said. I did not want to make a scene so I just said ‘OK’, but used the opportunity to sneak into the press/computer room next door and set up my laptop. I went straight to Twitter and wrote:
“#AAAS10: 8000 people (incl.1000 journalists). No wifi anywhere. No power outlets. Bloggers not counted as press.”
As you can see, I was just stating the facts with no adjectives or emoticons, though anyone knowing me could guess how I felt about it. But then others retweeted and/or replied – and some of them did voice anger and disappointment. And for the rest of the day and the next day many asked me about it, or commented, or approached me and commiserated, and agreed that all three of the statements were right and that they were a bad sign about the state of mind of the AAAS leaders, demonstrating how behind the times they were. I agreed with them in these personal conversations.
Later that night, in my hotel room (with free wifi – small hotels, like Days Inn, are much more up-to-date on this than the fancy hotels) I also mentioned this fact on my blog. Others added comments on FriendFeed and Facebook (where my tweets and blog posts are automatically imported). Not too much noise, but there was some.
On Sunday I did not bother bringing the laptop with me, but in the afternoon I wanted to go to the Press cocktail party. Journos are “my crowd” much more than scientists these days, and I wanted to meet many of them and share a drink. But I could not, not having the press pass.
So, one of the bloggers who did have a press pass (for also writing for a “real” media outlet) got quite agitated, took me into the press room again and, instead of asking the employees/volunteers again, asked to see the boss. The boss (Engle? – I did not catch his name – edit: his name is Earl) came out and we asked him for a press pass for me. I was trying to be nice, but the other blogger was quite agitated (an effective Good Cop Bad Cop strategy, it turned out). She said stuff in pretty strong words about AAAS not giving me the press pass.
I trotted out the names of four organizations I am affiliated with that can be counted as ‘media’ in one way or another. But my Attendee pass said my institution is PLoS. Engle? Earl said that journal editors are not really press. I agree, but I said I was not an editor but on the Communications team at PLoS, as well as a blogger for PLoS, for ScienceInTheTriangle.org, for Seed Media Group, and an advisor for the science programing for PRI/BBC/WBHG The World. He said something about AAAS having to rethink these things in the future and told one of the ladies manning the tables to issue me a press card. He was very nice about it throughout, and apologetic, but I am not sure he really grokked the problem.
Afterwards, I tweeted that I got the pass, and many others on Twitter cheeered and gloated in my name.
I think employees/volunteers at the desk were initially just not sure if giving me a pass would be OK. Perhaps it was the PLoS connection (and AAAS is a publisher of ‘Science’ so perhaps they perceive these things as important). I did not push much so did not get much of a response the first day. I think everyone interpreted me not getting the pass as “for being a blogger” but on the other hand Maggie of BoingBoing was issued a press pass, so this is not clear. It was clear, though, that I was not easy to classify – in that world, I am not an accredited journalist for a traditional media organization. That was so confusing to them.
So I would really like to know what was the AAAS’ real reason for this – it could have been just mis-communication. But an out-dated worldview certainly played a part or there would have been zero confusion. Expecting wifi everywhere it never occurred to me to apply for a press pass in advance, just in person once there. I also did not have a clue in advance that press center would be so closed to non-press-tagged people – those were all very novel situations to me. I am used to freedom to roam and blog from everywhere in the building PLUS access to special amenities for the press in those rare cases when I may need them (e.g., information, interview access to VIPs, press releases and fresh fruit).
So, there is no clear track of events that one can point to, something like “Bora officially asked” (no, Bora wandered in and kinda asked), then “AAAS declined” (no, they were unsure what to do and did nothing as I did not push any further), then “Bloggers rebelled” (no, a few tweets a revolution do not make, and I doubt anyone at the top of AAAS ever read them or was aware of the issue), then “AAAS finally gave in” (no, Engle? Earl was nice about it once it was explained to him).
There is a lot of play of perceptions here – and some of them are true e.g., that AAAS is behind the times on this, not having heard much that the media ecosystem has dramatically changed over the past ten years or so.
But, keep in mind that it is the Convention Center, not AAAS, that has no free wifi or power outlets. So it is really the Center that is behind times. Of course, if AAAS was up-to-date on such things they would have certainly thought about this and could have fixed the obvious problems by bringing in a lot of power strips and hiring a company to provide free wifi like we did with paying SignalShare at ScienceOnline2010.
In today’s world, everyone is potentially a journalist. Out of 8000 people there, perhaps 1000, perhaps 2000 would have wanted to report from AAAS in some form. Some would write stories for traditional media, some for New Media, and some would write for personal blogs. There is really no distinction between these. And it is almost impossible to predict in advance who will blog – anyone can just get inspired on the spot, or a blogger can come in, find it boring, and not write anything (not being able to blog on the spot, I am not sure I will have energy and inspiration to do much post-hoc blogging now that I am back home).
Some people were paid to come to AAAS and write stories for a particular media outlet. But many others would have done some kind of reporting as well. A few blog posts. An avalanche of tweets. A bunch of good pictures on Flickr. Perhaps going around with a digital audio recorder or video camera, interviewing people and posting the files online. Some would do a lot of this. Some very little. Most would do nothing. The best of the best would do ALL of this.
So what every conference needs is a lot of power outlets and the free wifi everywhere. That way both traditional and new journalists can do their jobs everywhere in that space. Neither old nor new journalists really need a press center for anything any more, except for free coffee (which should be provided for everyone anyway). There is no need for a room full of computers. People prefer to work on their own laptops anyway. And often prefer to write their stuff in some secluded corner, not surrounded by the noise of 100 keyboards on fire.
What did the decision to have a press room accomplish? It limited the power outlets and online access to a very small part of the space. The Fire Marshall decides how many people can fill that space. Many more people, not being able to get online outside of it, would want to enter that space. This then introduces a problem for the organizers – how do they limit the use of the space to only the number of people that can legally occupy it? So they pick an arbitrary criterion: allowing the entrance into that space only to people who are officially working for organizations that in the last century were called “press”.
So, not having wifi everywhere, while having such a thing as a “press room” in the first place, is quaint and outdated and leads to these kinds of problems. This is a structural problem that leads to the artificial division between “journalists” and “bloggers” (and bad feelings that come from the enforcement of this division).
If everyone can send/post all their stuff from everywhere in the building, there is no need for a designated room. If there is no designated room, there is no need for designated name tags, no need for applying for press passes, no need for credentialing, and no need for anyone to make arbitrary decisions who is press and who is not.
I hope AAAS has learned from this year’s experience and will grow up by the time of next year’s meeting in Washington DC. I hope their scouts are looking for a venue that has power outlets everywhere and free wifi for everyone. So we don’t need to worry any more about the definition of “who is a journalist” for the coverage of conferences.

How To Report The News (video) – Hillarious because it is true


The wisest line? At 0:56: “we want to hear what is actually happening, not what people are saying about it”. That is the problem with journalism (all media, not just TV) in a nutshell: the #1 reason journalists are very low in the polls of trustworthiness in comparison with many other professions. Safety in quoting, instead of telling it as it is and assigning Truth-values to statements. That is post-modernism: to hell with the facts, what is important is what random people feel about the facts and say about them. The video is funny because it is so true.
Hat-tip: Grrrlscientist
And here is a print example which demonstrates exactly the same thing, with potentially dangerous consequences.

Journalism at ScienceOnline2010

scienceonline2010logoMedium.jpg
The year that just ended, 2009, was a year that saw huge changes in the world of media and the world of journalism. Science journalism has also been greatly affected, with many media outlets firing their science journalists first, then firing all the others afterwards. Much virtual ink has been spilled on the topics of “death of newspapers” and “bloggers vs. journalists is over” and “future of journalism”, etc.
If you checked out everyone who’s registered for the ScienceOnline2010 conference, or followed my posts introducing everyone, you have probably noticed that this, fourth meeting is chock-full of science journalists of various stripes: science/nature/medical reporters, freelance writers, editors, bloggers, press information officers, radio show hosts, podcasters, book authors, videographers, tweeterers, etc. Thus it is not surpising that many sessions and demos on the Program touch on and a few directly address the current and future state of science journalism. The sessions that most directly address the state of science journalism are:
Science on Radio, TV and video – Darlene Cavalier and Kirsten ‘Dr.Kiki’ Sanford
Description: How is science portrayed in mass market multi-media? We will examine the ways that the many available audio and video formats present scientific ideas, and the pros, and the cons to what reaches your eyes and ears. We will also embark on a conversation to investigate what can be done by the average scientist to help make science in the media even better. Discuss here.
Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs
Description: Our panel of journalist-blogger hybrids – Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, Ed Yimmer Yong, and David Dobbs- will discuss and debate the future of science journalism in the online world. Are blogs and mainstream media the bitter rivals that stereotypes would have us believe, or do the two sides have common threads and complementary strengths? How will the tools of the Internet change the art of reporting? How will the ongoing changes strengthen writing about science? How might these changes compromise or threaten writing about science? In a world where it’s possible for anyone to write about science, where does that leave professional science journalists? And who actually are these science journalists anyway? Discuss “here”:http://www.scienceonline2010.com/index.php/wiki/Rebooting_Science_Journalism/
Talking Trash: Online Outreach from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – Miriam Goldstein, Lindsey Hoshaw and Annie Crawley
Description: Debris in the North Pacific Gyre received unprecedented attention in 2009 with voyages from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Project Kaisei, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Each voyage integrated online outreach into its mission, but emphasized very different aspects of the problem. What are the challenges of creating a major outreach effort from one of the most isolated places on earth? How can scientists, journalists, and educators balance “exciting findings live from the field!” with “highly preliminary unpublished non-peer-reviewed data that our labwork might contradict”? And why is the public so interested in the issue of trash in the ocean, anyway? Discuss here.
Science and Entertainment: Beyond Blogging – Tamara Krinsky and Jennifer Ouellette
Description: Over the past several years, the Internet has tangibly changed the way that movies and TV shows are produced and marketed. Blogs will call out ridiculous scientific errors found in stories and the critique can go viral very quickly; therefore, science advising is on the rise in an attempt to add some semblance of plausibility to your favorite flicks. As tools on the web continue to evolve, filmmakers and television creators are finding new ways to connect with and market to their viewers. For some shows, this has meant tapping into the science featured in their content, ranging from an exploration of the roots of the science that has been fictionalized to the expansion of a scientific topic explored in a documentary. In this session, we’ll look at how online video and social networking tools are playing a part in connecting science, Hollywood and its fans. Discuss here.
How does a journalist figure out “which scientists to trust”? – Christine Ottery and Connie St Louis
Description: We will talk about how science journalists can know which scientists to trust based on a blogpost by Christine Ottery that made a splash in the world of science communication. As a relative newcomer to science journalism and blogging (Christine) and an award-winning broadcaster, journalist, writer and scientist (Connie), we will be bringing two very different viewpoints to the discussion. We will be touching on peer review, journals, reputation and maverick scientists. We will also examine how journalists and scientists can foster good working relationships with each other, find out what is best practice when it comes to sources for science journalists, and turn the premise of the talk on its head and ask “Which journalists can you trust?” of the scientists. Discuss here.
Trust and Critical Thinking – Stephanie Zvan, PZ Myers, Desiree Schell, Greg Laden and Kirsten Sanford
Description: Lay audiences often lack the resources (access to studies, background knowledge of fields and methods) to evaluate the trustworthiness of scientific information as another scientist or a journalist might. Are there ways to usefully promote critical thinking about sources and presentation as we provide information? Can we teach them to navigate competing claims? And can we do it without promoting a distrust of science itself? Discuss: here.
Getting the Science Right: The importance of fact checking mainstream science publications — an underappreciated and essential art — and the role scientists can and should (but often don’t) play in it. – Rebecca Skloot
Description: Much of the science that goes out to the general public through books, newspapers, blogs and many other sources is not professionally fact checked. As a result, much of the public’s understanding of science is based on factual errors. This discussion will focus on what scientists and journalists can do to fix that problem, and the importance of playing a pro-active role in the process. Discuss here.
Medical journalism – Walter Jessen and Karl Leif Bates
Description: It could be argued that healthcare already has a “killer app” – search. According to research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 61% of us look online for medical information. In an age of horizontal information distribution and social networks, what sort of medical information, disinformation and misinformation does one find? How do we fight publishers of medical information that is inaccurate, misleading or wrong? Is a website sponsored by a drug company more reliable than one sponsored by a disease group? Can a University PR site be trusted? How about an M.D or Ph.D. that blogs on medicine or medical research? What about a federal agency such as the FDA or CDC? What difference does a seal of approval from the Health on the Net Foundation (HONcode) make if Google’s algorithms don’t value it? Discuss here.
Government 2.0 – Anil Dash
Description: Anil Dash is a pioneer blogger (and of course twitterer) and one of the founders of Six Apart, the company that built blogging platforms including MoveableType (which is used by Scienceblogs.com) and Typepad. Recently he made an official announcement that he will be leading Expert Labs (also on Twitter) which is a new project (largely run/funded by AAAS) to facilitate feedback by the experts (including scientists, of course) to the Obama Administration and other government officials. Read the press release, the early media coverage (this one is much better) , an interview with Anil (pdf) and a video. Interestingly, Anil got this job due to writing a blog post stating that the executive branch of the federal government of the United States was the “Most Interesting New Tech Startup of 2009”.
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To prepare you for the lively discussions, I decided to put together some of the most important discussions about science and the media written by the people who will be there (mostly written during the last year or so), as well as a few “classics” (IMHO) by good media-watchers elsewhere:
Carl Zimmer:
Visions of the Crash
Apocalypse Via Press Release
Disappearing The Science News
Unchecked Ice: A Saga in Five Chapters
Checking George Will: The Perils of Time Travel
My God, It’s Full of Blogs
Ed Yong:
Scientists heart journalists? Plus a quick guide to dealing with the media
On science blogging and mainstream science writing…
WCSJ: Flat Earth News with Nick Davies – a discussion on the breaking of journalism
Does science journalism falter or flourish under embargo?
On cheerleaders and watchdogs – the role of science journalism
Breaking the inverted pyramid – placing news in context
Who are the science journalists?
Adapting to the new ecosystem of science journalism
John Timmer:
The Nature of Nobel Intent
PR or science journalism? It’s getting harder to tell
Social media threats hyped by science reporting, not science
Wikipedia hoax points to limits of journalists’ research
Christine Ottery:
T’inspiration
Science journalism in crisis?/Will I have a job when I finish my MA?
Is science journalism a danger to public health?
Can humanities graduates do it? Actually write science journalism?
In a land far, far away: the future of science journalism
Science literacy – getting more people into science, innit
Science literacy – getting more people into science, innit. part 2
Which scientists can you trust?
me:
What does it mean that a nation is ‘Unscientific’?
Defining the Journalism vs. Blogging Debate, with a Science Reporting angle
What is ‘Investigative Science Journalism’?
The Ethics of The Quote
Scientists are Excellent Communicators (‘Sizzle’ follow-up)
The Shock Value of Science Blogs
ResearchBlogging.org posts now a part of Article-Level-Metrics at PLoS
Behold the Birth of the Giga-Borg
Graham Lawton Was Wrong
Why good science journalists are rare?
ScienceOnline’09 – Saturday 4:30pm and beyond: the Question of Power
Talkin’ Trash
What is science’s rightful place?
‘Journalists vs. Blogs’ is bad framing
New Journalistic Workflow
‘Bloggers’ vs ‘Audience’ is over? or, Will the word ‘blogger’ disappear?
I don’t care about business models of journalism/publishing.
Newsworthy-ness
David Dobbs:
Blogosphere, MSM journalism, and the PTSD story
Rebooting (and Funding) Science Journalism
Rebooting science journalism, redux
Watchdogs, sniff this: What investigative science journalism can investigate
Zyprexa, Infinite Mind, and mainstream vs. pajama press
Janet D. Stemwedel:
Book review: Unscientific America.
Unscientific America: Give the people what they want, or what they need?
Unscientific America: Is the (new) media to blame?
Unscientific America: Are scientists all on the same team?
Researchers talking to journalists should assume the public might be listening.
Are you a scientist or a journalist here? Either way, you’re bound by ethics.
Tom Levenson:
Science Bloggers v. Science Journalists: first thoughts
Science Bloggers vs. Science Writers Round 2: It’s Just A Theory dept.
Bloggers v. Journalists round three: the agony of victory.
The Future of Media 2
Brian Switek:
Science bloggers vs. journalists, again
The New Scientist damns science blogs with faint praise
This says it all, really
Book Review: Unscientific America
Science Communication: It’s not just about the message
Book Review: Don’t Be SUCH A Scientist
Scientist tries to communicate with public, gets quote-mined instead
Dr.Isis:
Who are the Science Journalists?
Unscientific America and the Meaning of Scientific Literacy
So, What Does Outreach By Scientists Look Like?
Greg Laden:
Blogging and Journalism
SciCurious:
Book Review: Unscientific America
Science Communication: A Conversation
Part the 4th: In which The New Scientist reviews Open Lab 2008 and Laelaps rocks my socks
Stephanie Zvan:
What Is an Editor?
Trust and Critical Thinking in Science Reporting: A Case Study
Credulity, Skepticism and Cynicism
Andrew Revkin
My Second Half
Revkin Taking NYT Buyout
Jessica Palmer:
Is the internet to blame for the decline of science journalism? And can blogs fill the void?
Science journalism: don’t forget the editors
The Return of the Son of Bloggers vs. Journalists (Part II!)
paradigm shift: fact-checking (journalism) vs debugging (programming)
Abbie Smith
Good Science Journalism, Bad Science Journalism
Jon Voisey
Friends and Enemies
Zen Faulkes
I want to be Carl Sagan, but can’t
Grant Jacobs
Media thought: Ask what is known, not the expert’s opinion
Scientists on TV: referees of evidence or expert’s opinion?
Genetic tests and personalised medicine, some science communication issues
Three kinds of knowledge about science journalism
Science journalism–critical analysis not debate
Note to science communicators–alleles, not “disease genes”
Sidebar scientists
Scientists can’t write?
For those interested science journalism
Science writing vs. science journalism
Jay Rosen:
If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn’t. So Let’s Get a Clue.
Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press
The People Formerly Known as the Audience
Users-Know-More-than-We-Do Journalism
Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over
Rosen’s Flying Seminar In The Future of News
Clay Shirky:
Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable
A Speculative Post on the Idea of Algorithmic Authority
Jeff Jarvis:
Is journalism storytelling?
Content farms v. curating farmers
The annotated world
Dan Conover:
2020 vision: What’s next for news
The fire that frees the seed
New media virtual interview No. 2
The Big Pool of Money experiment
Narrative is dead! Long live Narrative!
The newspaper suicide pact
The limits of social
The Imagination Gap
The future is nearer than you think
What’s interesting in the media discussion
Cody Brown:
Batch vs. Real Time Processing, Print vs. Online Journalism: Why the Best Web News Brands Will Never Look Like The New York Times
A Public Can Talk To Itself: Why The Future of News is Actually Pretty Clear
Rebooting the News – 37 podcasts you need to catch up with….
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All of these sessions will be either recorded or livestreamed+recorded.
Livestreaming will be both on Ustream and in SecondLife – watch the wiki or our Twitter (@scio10) account to get the correct URLs when the time comes. The livestreamed sessions will take some questions/comments from the virtual audience.
Videos will be posted on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/scienceinthetriangle ), on the conference wiki, on my blog, on Science In The Triangle, and the links will be tweeted, friendfed and facebooked (see the wiki homepage for the links to all of that). So you will be able to see all of this…. Follow the hashtag #scio10 everywhere (Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, blogs, etc.) to keep up.

What does it mean that a nation is ‘Unscientific’?

If a publisher offered me a contract to write a book under a title that would be something like “Unscientific America”, how would I go about it?
I would definitely be SUCH a scientist! But, being such a scientist does not mean indulging in Sesquipedalian Obscurantism. Being such a scientist means being dilligent, thorough and systematic in one’s reasearch. And then being excited about presenting the findings, while being honest about the degree of confidence one can have in each piece of information.
I was not offered a book contract, and I do not have the resources and nine or twelve months to write such a book. But in the next couple of hours days I will write a blog post (this one, I am just starting) thinking through the methodology I would use for such a project, musing about difficulties, jotting down notes and – this being a blog – asking readers for links to information that can either reinforce or challenge my hypotheses. So please follow me under the fold…..

Continue reading

New issue of Journal of Science Communication

The December 2009 edition of the Journal of Science Communication is now online with some intriguing articles – all Open Access so you can download all the PDFs and read:
Control societies and the crisis of science journalism:

In a brief text written in 1990, Gilles Deleuze took his friend Michel Foucault’s work as a starting point and spoke of new forces at work in society. The great systems masterfully described by Foucault as being related to “discipline” (family, factory, psychiatric hospital, prison, school), were all going through a crisis. On the other hand, the reforms advocated by ministers throughout the world (labour, welfare, education and health reforms) were nothing but ways to protract their anguish. Deleuze named “control society” the emerging configuration.

Science cafés. Cross-cultural adaptation and educational applications:

Tokyo Institute of Technology (TokyoTech) has been developing a number of methodologies to teach graduate students the theory and practice of science communication since 2005. One of the tools used is the science café, where students are taught about the background based primarily on theoretical models developed in the UK. They then apply that knowledge and adapt it the Japanese cultural context and plan, execute and review outcomes as part of their course. In this paper we review 4 years of experience in using science cafés in this educational context; we review the background to the students’ decision-making and consensus-building process towards deciding on the style and subject to be used, and the value this has in illuminating the cultural influences on the science café design and implementation. We also review the value of the science café as an educational tool and conclude that it has contributed to a number of teaching goals related to both knowledge and the personal skills required to function effectively in an international environment.

Science comics as tools for science education and communication: a brief, exploratory study:

Comics are a popular art form especially among children and as such provide a potential medium for science education and communication. In an attempt to present science comics in a museum exhibit I found many science themed comics and graphic books. Here I attempt to provide an overview of already available comics that communicate science, the genre of ‘science comics’. I also provide a quick literature review for evidence that comics can indeed be efficiently used for promoting scientific literacy via education and communication. I address the issue of lack of studies about science comics and their readers and suggest some possible reasons for this as well as some questions that could be addressed in future studies on the effect these comics may have on science communication.

Science on television: how? Like that!:

This study explores the presence of science programs on the Flemish public broadcaster between 1997 and 2002 in terms of length, science domains, target groups, production mode, and type of broadcast. Our data show that for nearly all variables 2000 can be marked as a year in which the downward spiral for science on television was reversed. These results serve as a case study to discuss the influence of public policy and other possible motives for changes in science programming, as to gain a clearer insight into the factors that influence whether and how science programs are broadcast on television. Three factors were found to be crucial in this respect: 1) public service philosophy, 2) a strong governmental science policy providing structural government support, and 3) the reflection of a social discourse that articulates a need for more hard sciences.

Often overlooked: formative evaluation in the development of ScienceComics:

Formative evaluation should play a key role in the development of a science communication project or initiative. Such research is vital to understanding the needs and interests of the audience or participants; meeting these needs and interests helps ensure the project’s success. However, there can be a temptation to plough ahead without undertaking adequate formative evaluation. Using ScienceComics (www.sciencecomics.uwe.ac.uk) as a case study, this article explores both the challenges and benefits of using formative evaluation to guide project development. It focuses on the actors involved in the formative stages and the impacts these actors had on the final outputs. This evidence is used to develop practical guidance on integrating formative evaluation right from the start.

Socialization of scientific and technological research: further comments:

Research systems are increasingly required to be more practically oriented and to address issues which appear more promising in economic and social results, with special reference to trans-disciplinary research fields, such as nanotechnology or ICTs; policy makers show a sharp tendency to establish research priorities and to drive research systems; universities and research institutions are asked to be more transparent and open to dialogue with social actors on contents, impacts, ethical implications and practical applications of scientific and technological research. These transformations affecting both the ways in which science and technology are produced and their relationships with society pose new challenges to European research. All the aspects of research activities are concerned, including the life of the research groups, the approaches to scientific evaluation, the development of European research policies and the interaction between researchers with their social environment. Continuing a reflection started in the last issue of JCOM, Luisa Prista, Evanthia Kalpazidou-Schmidt, Brigida Blasi, Sandra Romagnosi and Miguel Martínez López offered their contribution in identifying some of the key implications and risks which these changes are bringing about, mainly in the perspective of the construction of the European Research Area.

Too much power to the networks:

In his latest book titled “Communication power”, the famous sociologist of information society Manuel Castells focuses on the way in which power takes shape and acts in information societies, and the role of communication in defining, structuring, and changing it. From the rise of “mass self-communication” to the role of environmental movements and neuropolitics, the network is the key structure at play and the main lens used to analyse the transformations we are witnessing. To support his thesis Castells links media studies, power theory and brain science, but his insistence on networks puts in danger his ability to give to his readers a comprehensive and coherent interpretative framework.

The brain seduction: the public perception of neuroscience:

The increasing number of magazine covers dedicated to brain studies and the success of magazines and scientific journals entirely dedicated to brain and mind indicate a strong interest on these themes. This interest is clearly surpassing the boundaries of scientific and medical researches and applications and underlines an engagement of the general public, too. This phenomenon appears to be enhanced by the increasing number of basic researches focusing on non-health-related fMRI studies, investigating aspects of personality as emotions, will, personal values and beliefs, self-identity and behaviour. The broad coverage by the media raises some central questions related to the complexity of researches, the intrinsic limits of these technologies, the results’ interpretative boundaries, factors which are crucial to properly understand the studies’ value. In case of an incomplete communication, if those fundamental interpretative elements are not well understood, we could register a misinterpretation in the public perception of the studies that opens new compelling questions. As already observed in the past debates on science and technologies applications, in this case, too, we assist to a communicative problem that set against scientific community on one side and media, on the other. Focusing our attention, in particular, on the debate on fMRI, taken as a good model, in the present letter we will investigate the most interesting aspects of the current discussion on neuroscience and neuroscience public perception. This analysis was performed as one of the bid – brains in dialogue – activities (www.neuromedia.eu). bid is a three year project supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Program and coordinated by Sissa, the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste, aimed at fostering dialogue between science and society on the new challenges coming from neuroscience.

Shirky and Rosen, chatting about journalism

A nice, thought-provoking interview. Starts with the discussion of Clay Shirky’s post Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable and the reactions collected by Jay Rosen and discussed in Rosen’s Flying Seminar In The Future of News:
Since the clips are set on auto-start, I placed them all under the fold:

Continue reading

Behold the Birth of the Giga-Borg

If you follow @ScienceBlogs on Twitter, you may have seen a cryptic tweet yesterday, just saying:

ScienceBlogs will soon be making a very exciting announcement – so stay tuned!

SciBlings (who by then knew what the news was going to be, but were asked to keep it under the wraps until the official announcement) had some fun teasing everyone else – here are some examples:

RT @ScienceBlogs: ScienceBlogs will soon be making a very exciting announcement – so stay tuned! (We are ALL Belle de Jour)
RT @ScienceBlogs: ScienceBlogs will soon be making a very exciting announcement – stay tuned! (We plan to start blogging about science) ;-p
Big announcement: @Scienceblogs rips off mask, reveals self to be mainstream media in disguise
Hahaha! Yes it is so! And our first act of evil will be to COPY AND PASTE THIS PRESS RELEASE!!! MUHAHAHAHAHAHA
Big announcement: @ScienceBlogs merging with Catholic Church, @pzmyers to be named Pope. #SbBigNews
Sb to release new ed of Origin with forward by Andy Schlafly #SbBigNews
Prominent Sb blogger revealed to be secretly on Microsoft payroll! Linux shocker!! #SbBigNews
Sb announces new policy: all bloggers must blog under real name. Turns out we are all called “Greg”. #SbBigNews
Sb big announcement. Three words – We. Are. Xenu. #SbBigNews
Sb Big Announcement: all bloggers will now be required to do piece on nitric oxide weekly #SbBigNews #daedalus2u
New Contract “..must blog in heels” WTF? Who is running this joint anyway??? #SbBigNews
Sb big announcement – All the pseudonymous bloggers are actually a 6-year-old girl called Cindy. Even Physioprof #SbBigNews
Sb Big Announcement: Modest subscription fee to be charged for sitewide access. Bloggers have 10 free for readers. Email quickly! #SbBigNews
Sb big announcement: Bandwidth unmanageable, Sb will be weekly broadsheet starting Jan 1 #SbBigNews
Sb big announcement: all posts over 300 words must now get IRB/HSC approval after successful animal trials #SbBigNews
For the sake of balance, each blogger gets a co-blogger of opposite persuasion. Orac wins – gets Jenny McCarthy #SbBigNews
Sb big announcement: At 2.14 am Eastern time, @BoraZ becomes self-aware, launches its missiles against targets in Russia. #SbBigNews
Sb big announcement: Sb to outsource blogging to Khazakstan. @BoraZ will have to deal with being called “Borat” #SbBigNews

And today the real announcement came out. And it is very interesting….a new partnership between Scienceblogs.com (run by Seed Media Group) and National Geographic Digital Media.
sbnglogosblog.jpg
You can read press releases and announcements on Page 3.14, on Seed Media news page, on the National Geographic site, on Web Wire and on Paid Content. There was a celebration at the Seed HQ. And several of my SciBlings have already commented on the news.
I spent quite a long time reading all those releases, trying to figure out what exactly all that means. But of course, these were written by experienced PR and legal teams of the two institutions in maddening legalese I don’t understand. So nobody really knows the details. What I could gather is that:
– NatGeo bought a piece of Seed Media (but not enough to control it) and will be in charge of advertising (aka revenue). This is a nice influx of cash to Seed. Plus a great branding boost for Seed.
– There will be a lot of cross-linking between the two sites in various forms (sidebar widgets, blogrolls, etc.). This will bring additional exposure and traffic to both sites inasmuch as the two sites do not really have a huge overlap of readership (which is surprising, but apparently true).
– We (sciencebloggers) will have access and free use of the incredible and enormous NatGeo library of images, movies and documents. This is good: it will inspire us to use this resource and hopefully blog better.
– Existing or new NatGeo blogs/bloggers will find a new home here at Scienceblogs.com in the near future. This will bring them exposure in a place where they will be visible.
– Our contracts remain (for now at least, as far as we know) unchanged, i.e., there will continue to be zero editorial controls on our bloggy rantings and ravings.
So, although the releases are opaque and details fuzzy and hidden, I think this partnership is a good thing (and if you take a look at my SciBlings’ blog posts and their commenters, they seem to share in my optimism, if cautiously). Let me try to think out loudly through the reasons why I instinctively felt this was a good deal.
I think the best way to think about this partnership is in terms of how complementary the two organizations are.
Offline
National Geographic Magazine, which printed its first issue back in 1888 is universally and globally loved. I remember getting, as a kid in Yugoslavia, a year’s subscription to it as a birthday present from a relative in the States (and a few years before that a subscription to National Geographic Kids), each issue of which I memorized, every word. The Serbian-language edition only started printing some years after I left, but I got a few copies (Danica brought me a couple last year, and I bought a couple on the news-stand when I last went to Belgrade).
Of all the Old Media, National Geographic is doing something right and is the least likely to go under. There is a reason people hoard the magazine, and only this magazine and no other – it is perceived to be of lasting value, not something to read once and discard like newspapers or most other magazines. Thus, National Geographic is (unlike, for example, Washington Post) a trusted brand. They have an enormous global circulation (which also means they make nice money on their print product) and very few detractors (who are not very loud or visible but mostly academic critics who did not like the allegedly collonial and somewhat condescending tone that the magazine used to have in the past towards their photographic subjects in the developing world).
And don’t forget the National Geographic cable channel, books, maps and additional magazines (like the Kids one I mentioned above). It’s a huge and popular brand.
On the other hand, Seed Magazine is a new endeavor with a spotty history. In its initial run a few years ago, it managed to put out a couple of issues before shutting down. When Adam Bly revived it, it had about four years of publication. It was glossy and beautiful with amazing graphics and some excellent and provocative articles. But if you are a subscriber you must have noticed you did not receive a copy in a while. And you won’t. The magazine, faced with economic realities and not being able to become a powerful brand, is now entirely online.
Online
There is a reason why they call us The Borg. Scienceblogs.com is up in the stratosphere compared to any other website involved in science communication. Both in terms of name-recognition and in traffic. And reputation. Each one of us tends to forget this every now and then. We just put on our blogs whatever we want whenever we want. And people love it! They keep coming back for more, over and over again. Because we are people, and obviously so. No dry press release rehashing. No “he-said-she-said” false balance. And we have expertise and we can be trusted when we talk about science.
We certainly have our detractors. People who, on one issue or another (or all) do not belong to the Reality-based community, do not like us because we expose the errors in their thinking. They tend to rant that there is nothing but politics here. Because they are not really interested in science. If they were, they would notice that there is tons of great science blogging here every day. Out of 80 or so bloggers here, only 3-4 write predominantly about politics and/or religion. Most never touch the subject. Of course, for those not in reality-based community, every explanation of science is political because their own view of science is based on ideology. So be it.
Of course, the popularity of our site and the high ranking in search engines, in part fueled by topics that anti-science forces deem controversial, ensures that correct interpretations of scientific topics, including their political, religious and social aspects, show up very high in searches and displace the rival “interpretations” driven by outdated ideologies. We have power we are not always aware of ourselves – we uncovered information that MSM could not, we taught science journalists (often after first beating them up for transgressions) to abandon HeSaidSheSaid style, we helped affect legislation by rallying the troops, we get a lot of funds into classrooms via DonorsChoose every year – we can do a lot of good.
On the day Scienceblogs.com launched in January 2006, after looking at it for a minute or so, I asked “how do I get on?” It was obvious, for reasons I could not explain except for gut-feeling, that this was going to be big and that science bloggers not here will have to struggle for recognition in comparison. Just look around – my SciBlings are all getting book deals, invitations to speak at conferences, writing gigs in MSM, jobs….(and sometimes death-threats, which comes with the territory of being influential). Seed hit on the right formula in building an online empire, not unlike the offline empire that National Geographic enjoys.
And don’t forget ScienceBlogs Germany and ScienceBlogs Brasil, also run by Seed.
A number of other networks have sprung up, trying to emulate Sb in some ways, e.g., Discover blogs, Discovery blogs, SciBlogs New Zealand, Nature Network blogs and ScientificBlogging.
Now that they are relieved of the economic burden of trying to print the magazine on paper, creative Seed folks have freedom to experiment. Not just scienceblogs. Also building the Seed Magazine in a way that is adapted to the Web, with no constraints imposed by the paper-based traditions. And things like Seed Visualizations and ResearchBlogging.org and who knows what else is still under wraps and super-secret at this time (no, they do not tell us blabbermouths about secret things).
In other words, Seed had no luck offline, in the traditional media, but are the magicians of the online world.
National Geographic is quite the opposite. While their brand is huge and their magazines and TV are very popular, I am not so sure about their online success. I am supposed to be the big watcher of the online science world and I don’t see many people tweeting or blogging NatGeo links or mentioning it much. I don’t think I even visited the site since the Nigersaurus paper two years ago.
Until a couple of hours ago I did not even know they had blogs on their site and none of the bloggers’ names are familiar to me. I just discovered they even have a cool kids blog. How come I did not know about them?
Online + Offline
I think, and may be wrong about this, that the two organizations occupy different universes inhabited by different people (there must be some overlap, but probably not huge). I assume that most of the visitors to the NatGeo site (which is nice – you should go there and explore) come there by following URLs or links in the magazine, on NatGeo channel or via links from other MSM sites. Those are traditional consumers. They are probably comfortable online, but not really active there.
On the other hand, majority of readers of Scienceblogs.com are very Web-savvy, the digital natives (regardless of calendrical age – generation is a mindset, not number of years), active users. They comment, they share links to our posts on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook etc., they often write their own blogs.
In other words, the average NatGeo site visitor is a Web observer. The average Sb visitor is a Web denizen.
We are about to start mixing the two. With all the cross-linking and cross-posting, our commenters will start going there and disturbing the orderliness of the NatGeo site/blogs which is a Good Thing – they will make the site more lively and interesting and attractive. At the same time, NatGeo readers will start coming here (w00t! Traffic! Ka-Ching!) and, some of them for the first time, encounter the liveliness of the interractive Web at its best. Some will get hooked. Become bloggers themselves, perhaps.
NatGeo brings the respected offline brand (which will also weaken our detractors’ criticism of our site and boost our reputation) and what they do best: amazing science and nature expeditions, reporting, writing, video and photography in a traditional medium. Seed brings the respected and high-ranked online brand (which will make NatGeo look more modern and adapted to 21st century) and what they do best: fast, exciting and dynamic interaction. Together, the two empires should become, if the fusion goes well, the Uber-empire of science communication over all media, online and offline in, as time goes by, more and more seamless and invisible division between the two worlds. Let’s hope I’m right about this.

Jay Rosen on citizen journalism at the Knight Center

Interested in journalism and the Web? Watch this:

What is ‘Investigative Science Journalism’?

Background
When Futurity.org, a new science news service, was launched last week, there was quite a lot of reaction online.
Some greeted it with approval, others with a “wait and see” attitude.
Some disliked the elitism, as the site is limited only to the self-proclaimed “top” universities (although it is possible that research in such places, where people are likely to be well funded, may be the least creative).
But one person – notably, a journalist – exclaimed on Twitter: “propaganda!”, which led to a discussion that revealed the journalist’s notion that press releases are automatically suspect and scientists are never to be trusted and their institutions even less. That was a very anti-science sentiment from a professional science journalist, some of us thought.
This exchange reminded me of a number of prior debates between the traditional Old Media journalists and the modern New Media journalists about the very definition of ‘journalism’. The traditional journalists are fighting to redefine it in a narrowest possible way that keeps them in a position of gatekeepers (like the new proposed shield law that defines a journalist as someone who gets paid by the Old Media organization, thus NOT protecting citizen journalists, accidental journalists, bloggers, etc.), while the new ones are observing the way the world is changing and trying to come up with new definitions that better reflect the world (and often go too far in the other direction – defining everything broadcast by anyone via any medium to the audience consisting of more than one person as journalism, including the crossword puzzle in a newspaper and the silliest YouTube video).
One of the frequently heard retorts in the “you’ll miss us when we’re gone” genre of defensiveness by the old guard is the slight-of-hand in which they suddenly, in mid-stream of the discussion, redefine journalism to equate only investigative journalism. This usually comes up in the form of “who will report from the school board meetings” question (to which the obvious answer is: “actually, the bloggers are already doing it a lot as the old media has quit decades ago”).
Of course, investigative journalism is just one of many forms under the rubric of ‘journalism’. And, if you actually go and buy a copy of your local newspaper today (it still exists in some places, on tree-derived paper, believe me), you are likely to find exactly zero examples of investigative journalism in it. Tomorrow – the same. Every now and then one appears in the paper, and then it is often well done, but the occasions are rare and getting even more rare as investigative reporters have been cut from many a newsroom over the past few decades, and even more rapidly over the last several months.
So, what is ‘Investigative Science Journalism’?
So, this train of thought brought me to the question, again, of what is ‘investigative journalism’ in science. And I was not perfectly happy with what I wrote about this question before. I had to think some more. But before doing all the thinking myself, I thought I’d try to see what others think. So I tweeted the question in several different ways and got a lot of interesting responses:

Me: What is, exactly, ‘investigative science reporting’?

@davemunger: @BoraZ To me, it means going beyond looking at a single study to really understand a scientific concept. Diff from traditional “inv. journo”

@szvan: @davemunger @BoraZ And looking at methodology, statistical analysis, etc. to determine whether claims made match what was studied.

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ Re: “investigative science reporting,” isn’t it like all other investigative reporting where you dig deep and challenge your sources?

@Melhi: @BoraZ I thnk it means, “we cut/pasted from Wiki, all by ourselves.” Seems to be what it means when “scientific” is removed from the term.

Me: @LeeBillings clarify: What’s the story about? dig deep into what? who are the sources? why are you assuming they need to be challenged?

@soychemist: @BoraZ Any instance in which a reporter tries to uncover scientific information that has been concealed or distorted, using rigorous methods

@john_s_wilkins: @BoraZ Reporting on investigative science, no doubt.

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ ?s you’re asking only make sense in context of a specific story, not in context of defining “sci investigative journalism” as a whole

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ 1/2 but typically, the goal is to find out what’s true, and communicate it. you dig into primary literature & interview tons of ppl

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ 2/2 you don’t assume they need to challenged. you *know* they need to be challenged based on your in-depth research into primary lit

Me: When futurity.org was released, a journo yelled “propaganda”! Does every press release need to be investigated? Challenged?

Me: Are scientists presumed to be liars unless proven otherwise? All of them?

@NerdyChristie: Usually. Unless you’re studying how herbal tea makes you a supergod. RT @BoraZ: Are scientists presumed to be liars unless proven otherwise?

@szvan: @BoraZ Not liars but not inherently less open to bias than anyone else. Some wrongs are lies. Some are errors.

Me: Are journalists capable of uncovering scientific misconduct at all? All of those were uncovered by other scientists, I recall…

@lippard: @BoraZ Didn’t journalist Brian Deer do the investigative work to expose Andrew Wakefield’s MMR-autism data manipulation?

@JATetro: @BoraZ To be honest, there are some very good journalists out there who can spot misconduct but without backing from a source, it’s liable.

Me: @BoraZ: @JATetro yes, they need scientists to do the actual investigating, then report on what scientists discovered – fraud, plagiarism etc.

@JATetro: @BoraZ So it’s not the journalists fault, really. They do their job as well as possible but without our help, there’s little they can do.

@LabSpaces: @JATetro @BoraZ Actual scientists cost too much.They’re a luxury, and especially in these times, it’s hard for pubs. to justify having 1

@JATetro: @LabSpaces @BoraZ Apparently it’s hard for universities to have them as well…not a prof or anything but damn it’s ridiculous.

@LabSpaces: @JATetro @BoraZ I dunno, our PR dept. does a great job interacting with scientists and getting the right info out, but I guess that’s diff.

@JATetro: @LabSpaces @BoraZ Oh, the media people at the U are great. It’s the administrators that seem to forget who keep the students comin’.

Me: Isn’t investigating nature, via experimentation, and publishing the findings in a journal = scientific investigative reporting?

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ 1/2 I’d say that’s performing peer-reviewed scientific research, not doing investigative science journalism.

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ 2/2 No room to address your ?-torrent. What are you driving at, anyway? You think sci journos can’t/don’t do investigative stuff?

@LouiseJJohnson: RT @BoraZ Isn’t investigating nature, via experimentation, & publishing findings in a journal, scientific investigative reporting?

@mcmoots: @BoraZ “Journalism” usually means you report the results of your investigations to the public; scientists report to a technical community.

Me: @BoraZ: @mcmoots does the size and expertise of audience determine what is journalism, what is not? Is it changing these days?

Me: @BoraZ: Why is investigating words called ‘investigative journalism’, but investigating reality, with much more rigorous methods, is not?

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ 1 more thing: A press release isn’t a story–it should inspire journos to look deeper. Sometimes that deeper look reveals PR to be BS

Me: @BoraZ: @LeeBillings Journal article is reporting findings of investigation. Press release is 2ndary. Journo article is 3tiary. Each diff audience.

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ Glad you raised ? of audience, since relevant to yr ? of “words” & “reality.” Words make reality for audiences, some more than others

Me: @BoraZ: Journos investigate people, parse words. Scientists investigate nature. What is more worthy?

@lippard: @BoraZ I would say that there are instances of investigative journalism that have had more value than some instances of scientific research.

Me: @BoraZ: @lippard possible, but that is investigating the rare instances of misconduct by people, not investigating the natural reality. Science?

@john_s_wilkins: @BoraZ You’re asking this of a profession that thinks it needs to “give the other side” when reporting on science, i.e., quacks

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ Twitter is useful tool, but probably not best way to interview for the story you seem to be after, as responses lack depth and nuance

@LeeBillings: @BoraZ Still looking forward to reading your resulting story, of course

Me: @BoraZ: @LeeBillings you can add longer responses on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/coturnix that’s what it’s for

@1seahorse1: @BoraZ Do you mean that I have to be nostalgic about my ape tribe and life in caves ? 🙂

@TyeArnett: @BoraZ parsing data can be as dangerous as parsing words sometimes

@ccziv: @BoraZ Do not underestimate or devalue the importance of words, ever.

This shows that different people have very different ideas what ‘investigative reporting’ is and have even more difficulty figuring out how that applies to science! Let’s go nice and slow now, explore this a little bit more.
First, I think that what Dave meant in his first tweet –

@davemunger: @BoraZ To me, it means going beyond looking at a single study to really understand a scientific concept. Diff from traditional “inv. journo”

– is not ‘investigative reporting’ but ‘news analysis’ (again, see my attempt at classification), something akin to ‘explainers’ done occasionally by the mainstream media (think of This American Life on NPR and their ‘Giant Pool of Money‘ explainer for a great recent example). It is an equivalent of a Review Article in a scientific journal, but aimed at a broader audience and not assuming existing background knowledge and expertise.
The different worlds of journalists and scientists
This discussion, as well as many similar discussions we had in the past, uncovers some interesting differences between the way journalists and scientists think about ‘investigative’ in the context of reporting.
Journalists, when investigating, investigate people, almost exclusively. Scientists are much more open to including other things under this rubric, as they are interested in investigating the world.
Journalists focus almost entirely on words, i.e., what people say. In other words, they are interested mainly on the process and what the words reveal as to who is winning and who is losing in some imaginary (or sometimes real) game. Scientists are interested in results of the process, obtained by any means, only one of which is through people’s utterances – they are interested in investigating and uncovering the facts.
Journalists display an inordinate amount of skepticism – even deep cynicism – about anyone’s honesty. Everyone’s a liar unless proven not to be. Scientists, knowing themselves, knowing their colleagues, knowing the culture of science where 100% honesty and trust are the key, knowing that exposure of even the tiniest dishonesty is likely The End of a scientific career, tend to trust scientists a great deal more. On the other hand, scientists are deeply suspicious of people who do not abide by high standards of the scientific community, and The List of those who, due to track record, should be mistrusted the most is topped by – journalists.
This explains why scientists generally see Futurity.org as an interesting method of providing scientific information to the public, assuming a priori, knowing the track record of these institutions and what kind of reputation is at stake, that most or all of it will be reliable, while a journalist exclaims “propaganda”.
The Question of Trust
In this light, it is very instructive to read this post by a young science journalist, and the subsequent FriendFeed discussion of it. It is difficult for people outside of science to understand who is “inside” and thus to be trusted and who is not.
Those on the “inside”, the scientists, are already swimming in these waters and know instantly who is to be trusted and who not. Scientists know that Lynn Margolis was outside (untrusted) at first, inside (trusted) later and outside (untrusted) today again. Scientists know that James Lovelock or Deepak Chopra or Rupert Shaldrake are outside, always were and always will be, and are not to be trusted. Journalists can figure this out by asking, but then they need to figure out whose answer to trust! Who is inside and trusted to say who else is inside and trusted? If your first point of entry is the wrong person, all the “sources” you interview will be wackos.
Unfortunately the mistrust by journalists is often ‘schematic’ – not based on experience or on investigating the actual facts. They have a schema in their minds as to who is likely to lie, who is likely to use weaselly language, who can generally be trusted, etc. They use this rule-of-thumb when interviewing criminals, corrupt cops (“liars”), politicians, lawyers, CEOs (“weaselly words”), other journalists (“trustworthy”) and yes, scientists (“suspicious pointy-heads with hard-to-uncover financial motives”).
The automatic use of such “rule” is why so many D.C. reporters (so-called Village) did not understand (and some still do not understand) that someone who is supposed to be in the “use weaselly language” column – the politicians – should actually have been in the “lying whenever they open their mouths” column for eight years of the Bush rule (or, to be fair, the last 30 years). It did not occur to them to fact-check what Republicans said and hastily move them to the appropriate “chronic liars” category and report appropriately. They could not fathom that someone like The President would actually straight-out lie. Every sentence. Every day. Nobody likes being shown to be naive, but nobody likes being lied to either. Their need for appearance of savviness (the opposite of naive), for many of them, over-rode the need to reveal they’ve been lied to and fell for it (“What are you saying? Can’t be possible. They are such nice guys when they pat my back at a cocktail party over in The Old Boys Club Cafe – they wouldn’t lie to me!”). And many in their audience are in the same mindset – finding it impossible (as that takes courage and humility) to admit to themselves that they were so naive they fell for such lies from such high places (both the ruling party and their loyal stenographers). And we all suffered because of it.
The heavy reliance on such rules or mental schemas by journalists is often due to their self-awareness about the lack of knowledge and expertise on the topic they are covering. They just don’t know who to trust, because they are not capable of uncovering the underlying facts and thus figure out for themselves who is telling the truth and who is lying (not to mention that this would require, gasp, work instead of hanging out at cocktail parties). To cover up the ignorance and make it difficult for it to be revealed by the audience, they strongly resist the calls to provide the links to more information and especially to their source documents.
Thus He Said She Said journalism is a great way for them to a) focus on words, people, process and ‘horse-race’ instead of facts, b) hide their ignorance of the underlying facts, c) show their savvy by “making both side angry” which, in some sick twist, they think means they are doing a good job (no, that means all readers saw through you and are disgusted by your unprofessionalism). Nowhere does that show as clearly as when they cover science.
A more systematic investigation into ‘investigation’
Now that I raised everyone’s ire, let me calm down again and try to use this blog post the way bloggers often do – as a way to clarify thoughts through writing. I am no expert on this topic, but I am interested, I read a lot about it, blog about it a lot, and want to hear the responses in the comments. Let me try to systematize what I think ‘investigative reporting’ is in general and then apply that to three specific cases: 1) a scientist investigating nature and reporting about it in a journal, 2) a journalist investigating scientists and their work and reporting about it in a media outlet, and 3) a science blogger investigating the first two and reporting how good or bad job each one of them did.
A few months ago, I defined ‘investigative journalism’ like this:

Investigative reporting is uncovering data and information that does not want to be uncovered.

Let’s see how that works in practice.
Steps in Investigative Reporting:
1) Someone gets a hunch, wiff, a tip from someone or an intuition (or orders from the boss to take a look) that some information exists that is hidden from the public.
2) That someone then uses a whole suit of methods to discover that secret information, often against the agents that resist the idea of that information becoming available to the public.
3) That someone then puts all of the gathered information in one place and looks for patterns, overarching themes, connections and figures out what it all means.
4) That someone then writes an article, with a specific audience in mind, showing to the public the previously secret information (often including all of it – the entire raw data sets or documents or transcripts) and explaining what it means.
5) That someone then sends the article to the proper venue where it undergoes an editorial process.
6) If accepted for publication, the article gets published.
7) The article gets a life of its own – people read (or listen/view) it, comment, give feedback, or follow up with investigation digging up more information that is still not public (so the cycle repeats).
Case I: Scientist
1) Someone gets a hunch, wiff, a tip from someone or an intuition (or orders from the boss to take a look) that some information exists that is hidden from the public.
The keeper of the secret information is Nature herself. The researcher can get a hunch about the existence of hidden information in several different ways:
– delving deep into the literature, it becomes apparent that there are holes – missing information that nobody reported on yet, suggesting that nobody uncovered it yet.
– doing research and getting unexpected results points one to the fact that there is missing information needed to explain those funky results.
– going out into nature and observing something that, upon digging through the literature, one finds has not been explained yet.
– getting a photocopy of descriptions of three experiments from the last grant proposal from your PI with the message “Do this”. Great method for introducing high school and undergraduate students into research, and perhaps to get a brand new Masters student started (of course, regular discussions of the progress are needed). Unfortunately, some PIs continue doing this to their PhD students and even postdocs, instead of giving them freedom of creativity.
2) That someone then uses a whole suit of methods to discover that secret information, often against the agents that resist the idea of that information becoming available to the public.
The scientific method includes a variety of methods for wresting secret information out of Nature: observations, experiments, brute-force Big Science, natural experiments, statistics, mathematical modeling, etc. It is not easy to get this information from Nature as she resists. One has to be creative and innovative in designing tricks to get reliable data from her.
3) That someone then puts all of the gathered information in one place and looks for patterns, overarching themes, connections and figures out what it all means.
All the collected data from a series of observations/experiments are put together, statistically analyzed, visualized (which sometimes leads to additional statistical analyses as visualization may point out phenomena not readily gleaned from raw numbers) and a common theme emerges (if it doesn’t – more work needs to be done).
4) That someone then writes an article, with a specific audience in mind, showing to the public the previously secret information (often including all of it – the entire raw data sets or documents or transcripts) and explaining what it means.
There are three potential audiences for the findings of the research: experts in one’s field, other scientists, and lay audience (which may include policy-makers or political-action organizations, or journalists, or teachers, or physicians, etc.).
The experts in one’s field are the most important audience for most of research. The proper venue to publish for this audience is a scientific journal of a narrow scope (usually a society journal) that is read by all the experts in the same field. The article can be dense, using the technical lingo, containing all the information needed for replication and further testing of the information and should, in principle, contain all the raw data.
The scientific community as a whole as the target audience is somewhat baffling – on one hand, some of them are also experts in the field, on the other hand, all the rest are essentially lay audience. It is neither-nor. Why target scientific community as an audience then? Because the venue for this are GlamourMagz and publishing in these is good for one’s career and fame. The format in which such papers are written is great for scientists in non-related disciplines – it tells a story, but it is extremely frustrating for same-field researchers as there is not sufficient detail (or data) to replicate, re-test or follow-up on the described research. Publishing this way makes you known to a lot more scientists, but tends to alienate your closests colleagues who are frustrated by the lack of information in your report.
The lay audience is an important audience for some types of research – ones that impact people’s personal decisions about their health or about taking care of the environment, ones that can have impact on policy, ones that are useful to know by health care providers or science educators, or ones that are so cool (e.g., new fossils of dinosaurs or, erm…Ida) that they will excite the public about science.
Many scientists are excellent and exciting communicators and can speak directly to the audience (online on blogs/podcasts/videos or offline in public lectures or science cafes), or will gladly accept to do interviews (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines) about their findings. Those researchers who know they are not exciting communicators, or do not like to be in public, or are too busy, or have been burned by the previous interactions with the media, tend to leave the communication to lay audience to professionals – the press officers at their institutions.
While we have all screamed every now and then at some blatantly bad press releases (especially the titles imposed by the editors), there has been generally a steady, gradual improvement in their quality over the years. One of the possible explanations for this is that scientists that fall out of the pipeline as there are now so many PhDs and so few academic jobs, have started replacing English majors and j-school majors in these positions. More and more institutions now have science-trained press officers who actually understand what they are writing about. Thus, there is less hype yet more and better explanation of the results of scientific investigation. Of course, they tend to be excellent writers as well, a talent that comes with love and practice and does not necessitate a degree in English or Communications.
5) That someone then sends the article to the proper venue where it undergoes an editorial process.
The first draft of the article is usually co-written and co-edited by a number of co-authors who “peer-review” each other during the process. That draft is then (2nd peer-review) usually given to other lab-members, collaborators, friends and colleagues to elicit their opinion. Their feedback is incorporated into the improved draft which is then sent to the appropriate scientific journal where the editor sends the manuscript to anywhere between one and several experts in the field, usually kept anonymous, for the 3rd (and “official”) peer-review. This may then go through two or three cycles before the reviewers are satisfied with the edits and changes and recommend to the editor that the paper be published (or not, in which case the whole process gets repeated at lesser and lesser and lesser journals…until the paper is either finally published or abandoned or self-published on a website).
6) If accepted for publication, the article gets published.
Champaign time!
Then, next morning, back to the lab – trying to uncover more information.
7) The article gets a life of its own – people read (or listen/view) it, comment, give feedback, or follow up with investigation digging up more information that is still not public (so the cycle repeats).
After Nature closely guarded her secrets for billions of years, and after intrepid investigators snatched the secret information from her over weeks, months, years or decades of hard and creative work, the information is finally made public. The publication date is the date of birth for that information, the moment when its life begins. Nobody can predict what kind of life it will have at that point. It takes years to watch it grow and develop and mature and spawn.
People download it and read it, think about it, talk about it, interact with it, blog about it and, most importantly, try to replicate, re-test and follow up on the information in order to uncover even more information.
If that is not ‘investigative reporting’ at its best, I don’t know what is.
Case II: Science Journalist
1) Someone gets a hunch, wiff, a tip from someone or an intuition (or orders from the boss to take a look) that some information exists that is hidden from the public.
The hidden information, in this case, is most likely to be man-made information – documents, human actions, human words. It is especially deemed worthy of investigation if some wrong-doing is suspected.
2) That someone then uses a whole suit of methods to discover that secret information, often against the agents that resist the idea of that information becoming available to the public.
As the journalist cannot “go direct” and investigate nature directly (not having the relevant training, expertise, infrastructure, funding, manpower, equipment, etc.), the only remaining method is to investigate indirectly. The usual indirect method for journalists is to ask people – a very, very, very unreliable way of getting information.
Since investigating the facts about nature is outside the scope of expertise of journalists, they usually investigate the behavior and conduct of scientists. This is “investigative meta-science reporting”. In a sense, there is not much difference between investigating potential misconduct of scientists and misconduct of any other group of people. The main difference is that the business of science is facts about the way the world works, thus knowing who got the facts right and who got the facts wrong is important and who misrepresents lies as facts is even more important.
Unfortunately, due to lack of scientific expertise, journalists find this kind of investigation very difficult – they have to rely on the statements of scientists as to the veracity of other scientists’ facts or claims – something they are not in position to verify directly. If they ask the wrong person – a quack, for example – they will follow all the wrong leads.
Thus, the usual fall-back is HeSaidSheSaid model of journalism, reporting who said what, not committing to any side, not evaluating truth-claims of any side, and hoping that (also science-uneducated) audience will be able to figure it out for itself.
Since they cannot evaluate the truth-claims about Nature that scientists make, journalists have to use proxy mechanisms to uncover misconduct, e.g., discover other unseemly behaviors by the same actors, unrelated to the research itself. Thus discovering instances of lying, or financial ties, is the only way a journalist can start guessing as to who can be trusted, and then hope that the person who lies about his/her finances is also lying about facts about Nature – a correlation that is hard to prove and is actually quite unlikely except in rare instances of industry/lobby scientists-for-hire.
The actual research misconduct – fudging data, plagiarism, etc – can be uncovered only by other scientists. And they do it whenever they suspect it, and they report the findings in various ways. The traditional method of sending a letter to the editor of the journal that published the suspect paper is so ridiculously difficult that many are now pursuing other venues, be it by notifying a journalist, or going direct, on a blog, or, if the journal is enlightened (COI – see my Profile), by posting comments on the paper itself.
3) That someone then puts all of the gathered information in one place and looks for patterns, overarching themes, connections and figures out what it all means.
Once all the information is gathered in one place, any intelligent person can find patterns. Scientific expertise is not usually necessary for this step. Thus, once the journalists manages to gather all the information (the hard part), he/she is perfectly capable of figuring out the story (the easy part).
4) That someone then writes an article, with a specific audience in mind, showing to the public the previously secret information (often including all of it – the entire raw data sets or documents or transcripts) and explaining what it means.
Journalist advantage – they tend to be good with language and writing a gripping story. If the underlying information is correct, and the conclusions are clear, and the journalist is not afraid to state clearly who is telling the truth and who is lying, the article should be good.
5) That someone then sends the article to the proper venue where it undergoes an editorial process.
The editor who comes up with titles usually screws up this step. Otherwise, especially if nobody cuts out important parts due to length limits, the article should be fine. Hopefully, the venue targets the relevant audience – either experts (who can then police their own) or general public (who can elicit pressure on powers-that-be).
6) If accepted for publication, the article gets published.
Deadline for the next story looms. Back to the grind.
7) The article gets a life of its own – people read (or listen/view) it, comment, give feedback, or follow up with investigation digging up more information that is still not public (so the cycle repeats).
Now that the information is public, people can spread it around (e-mailing to each other, linking to it on their blogs, social networks, etc.). They bring in their own knowledge and expertise and provide feedback in various venues and some are motivated to follow up and dig deeper, perhaps uncovering more information (so the cycle repeats).
Most of science journalism is, thus, not investigative journalism. Most of it is simple reporting of the findings, i.e., second-hand reporting of the investigative reporting done by scientists (Case I). Or, as science reporters are made so busy by their editors, forced to write story after story in rapid succession, stories about many different areas of science, most science reporting in the media is actually third-hand reporting: first-hand was by scientists in journals, second-hand was by press officers of the institutions, and the journalist mainly regurgitates the press releases. As in every game of Broken Telephones/Chinese Whispers , the first reporter is more reliable then the second one in line who is more dependable than the third one and so on. Thus a scientist “going direct” is likely to give a much more reliable account of the findings than the journalist reporting on it.
There are exceptions, of course. Each discussion of science journalism always brings out commenters who shout the names of well-known and highly respectes science journalists. The thing is, those people are not science reporters. They are science journalists only in the sense that ‘Science Writers’ is a subset of the set ‘Science Journalists’. This is a subset that is very much in a privileged position – they are given freedom to write what, when, where and how they want. Thus, over many years, they develop their own expertise.
Carl Zimmer has, over the years, read so many papers, talked to so many experts, and written so many books, articles and blogposts, that he probably knows more about evolution, parasites and E.coli than biology PhDs whose focus is on other areas of biology. Eric Roston probably knows more about carbon than many chemistry PhDs. These guys are experts. And they are writers, not reporters. They do not get assignments to write many stories per week on different areas of science. They are not who I am talking about in this post at all.
Do they do investigative reporting? Sometimes they do, but they chose other venues for it. When George Will lied about climate change data in a couple of op-eds, Carl Zimmer used his blog, not the NYTimes Science section, to dig and expose the facts about the industry and political influences, about George Will’s history on the issue, about cowardly response by Washington Post to the uncovering of these unpleasant facts, etc.
Rebecca Skloot did investigative journalism as well, over many years, and decided to publish the findings in a form of a book, not in a newspaper or magazine. That is not the work of a beat reporter.
Case III: Science Blogger
1) Someone gets a hunch, wiff, a tip from someone or an intuition (or orders from the boss to take a look) that some information exists that is hidden from the public.
Bloggers are often looking for blogging materials from two distinctly different sources: the Tables of Content of scientific journals in the fields they have expertise in, and services that serve press releases (e.g., EurekAlert, ScienceDaily, etc.). They are also usually quite attuned to the mass media, i.e., they get their news online from many sources instead of reading just the local paper.
What many bloggers do and are especially good at doing is comparing the work of Case I and Case II investigative reporters. They can access and read and understand the scientific paper and directly compare it to the press releases and the media coverage (including the writings by other bloggers). Having the needed scientific expertise, they can evaluate all the sources and make a judgment on their quality.
Sometimes the research in the paper is shoddy but the media does not realize it and presents it as trustworthy. Sometimes the paper is good, but the media gets it wrong (usually in a sensationalist kind of way). Sometimes both the paper and the media get it right (which is not very exciting to blog about).
2) That someone then uses a whole suit of methods to discover that secret information, often against the agents that resist the idea of that information becoming available to the public.
Replicating experiments and putting that on the blog is rare (but has been done). But digging through the published data and comparing that to media reports is easy when one has the necessary expertise. Consulting with colleagues, on the rare occasions when needed, is usually done privately via e-mail or publicly on places like FriendFeed or Twitter, and there is no need to include quotes in the blog post itself.
Bloggers have done investigative digging in a journalistic sense as well – uncovering unseemly behavior of people. I have gathered a few examples of investigative reporting by science bloggers before:

Whose investigative reporting led to resignation of Deutch, the Bush’s NASA censor? Nick Anthis, a (then) small blogger (who also later reported on the Animal Rights demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in Oxford in great detail as well).
Who blew up the case of plagiarism in dinosaur palaenthology, the so-calles Aetogate? A bunch of bloggers.
Who blew up, skewered and castrated the PRISM, the astroturf organization designed to lobby the Senate against the NIH Open Access bill? A bunch of bloggers. The bill passed.
Remember the Tripoli 6?
Who pounced on George Will and WaPo when he trotted out the long-debunked lie about global warming? And forced them to squirm, and respond, and publish two counter-editorials? A bunch of bloggers.
Who dug up all the information, including the most incriminating key evidence against Creationists that was used at the Dover trial? A bunch of bloggers.
And so on, and so on, this was just scratching the surface with the most famous stories.

3) That someone then puts all of the gathered information in one place and looks for patterns, overarching themes, connections and figures out what it all means.
This is often a collective effort of multiple bloggers.
4) That someone then writes an article, with a specific audience in mind, showing to the public the previously secret information (often including all of it – the entire raw data sets or documents or transcripts) and explaining what it means.
The target audience of most science blogs is lay audience, but many of the readers are themselves scientists as well.
5) That someone then sends the article to the proper venue where it undergoes an editorial process.
Most blogs are self-edited. Sending a particularly ‘hot’ blog post to a couple of other bloggers asking their opinion before it is posted is something that a blogger may occasionally do.
6) If accepted for publication, the article gets published.
Click “Post”. That easy.
7) The article gets a life of its own – people read (or listen/view) it, comment, give feedback, or follow up with investigation digging up more information that is still not public (so the cycle repeats).
Feedback in comments usually comes in really fast! It is direct, straightforward and does not follow the usual formal kabuki dance that ensures the control and hierarchy remains intact in more official venues.
Other bloggers may respond on their own blogs (especially if they disagree) or spread the link on social networks (especially if they agree).
If many bloggers raise hell about some misconduct and persist in it over a prolonged periods of time, this sometimes forces the corporate media to pick up the hot-potato story despite the initial reluctance to do so. But this applies to all investigative reporting on blogs, not just science.
Also, bloggers are not bound by 20th century journalistic rules – thus the exposure by impersonation, what the conservative activists did to ACORN, is perfectly legitimate way of uncovering dirt in informal venues, but not legit in corporate venues.
One more point that needs to be made here. Different areas of science are different!
Biomedical science is a special case. It is huge. It has huge funding compared to other areas, yet not sufficient to feed the armies of researchers involved in it. It attracts the self-aggrandizing type disproportionately. Much is at stake: patents, contracts with pharmaceutical industry, money, fame, Nobel prizes… Thus it is extremely competitive. It also uses laboratory techniques that are universal and fast, thus it is easy to scoop and get scooped, which fosters the culture of secrecy. It suffers from CNS disease (necessity to publish in GlamourMagz like Cell, Nature and Science). It gets inordinate proportion of media (and blog) attention due to relevance to human health. All those pressures make the motivation to fudge data too strong for some of the people involved – very few, for sure, out of 10,000s involved.
On the other end of the spectrum is, for example, palaeontology. Very few people can be palaeontologists – not enough positions and not enough money. There is near-zero risk of getting scooped as everyone knows who dug what out, where, during which digging season (Aetogate, linked above, was a special case of a person using a position of power to mainly scoop powerless students). Your fossil is yours. The resources are extremely limited and so much depends on luck. Discovering a cool fossil is not easy and if you get your hands on one, you have to milk it for all it’s worth. You will publish not one but a series of papers. First paper is a brief announcement of the finding with a superficial description, the second is a detailed description, the third is the phylogenetic analysis, the fourth focuses on one part of the fossil that can say something new about evolution, etc. And you hope that all of this will become well-known to the general public. The palaeo community is so small, they all already know. They will quibble forever with you over the methodology and conclusions (so many assumptions have to go into methods that analyze old, broken bones). It is the lay audience that needs to be reached, by any means necessary. Many paleontologists don’t even work as university professors but are associated with museums, nature magazines, or are freelancing. The pressure to publish in GlamourMagz is there only as a means to get the attention of the media, not to impress colleagues or rise in careers.
Most of science and most scientists, on the other hand, do not belong to one of these two fields and do not work at high-pressure universities. They do science out of their own curiosity, feel no pressure to publish a lot or in GlamourMagz, do not fear scooping, are open and relaxed and have no motivation to fudge data or plagiarize. They know that the reputation with their peers – the only reputation they can hope to get – is dependent entirely on immaculate work and behavior. Why keep them suspect because two media-prominent sub-sub-disciplines sometimes produce less-than-honest behavior? Why not trust that their papers are good, their press releases correct, their blogging honest, and their personal behavior impeccable? I’d say they are presumed innocent unless proven guilty, not the other way around.
I’d like to see an equivalent of Futurity.org for state universities and small colleges. What a delightful source of cool science that would be!
Update: blogging at its best. After a couple of hit-and-run curmudgeounly comments posted early on, this post started receiving some very thoughtful and useful comments (e.g., especially one by David Dobbs) that are edifying and are helping me learn – which is the point of blogging in the first place, isn’t it?

Talkin’ Trash

I know everyone in the sci-blogosphere is swooning over Carl Sagan. But as a kid I never cared much about him – I usually fell asleep halfway through each episode of ‘Cosmos’. But I would not miss for anything an episode of ‘The Underwater Odyssey of Commander Cousteau’ with Jacques-Yves Cousteau. That was breathtaking. And what he and the crew of Calypso did was truly ground-breaking, both in terms of scientific discoveries and in terms of under-water filming. And those discoveries and breakthroughs were shared with us, the audience, in an intimate and immediate manner.
That was a long time ago. The techniques of under-water filming pioneered by the crew are now probably considered to be ‘nothing special’. And I bet half the crew of Calypso were cameramen and sound engineers and lighting engineers and video mixers and other TV and movie professionals.
Can’t do that any more. Or rarely, with a huge cost, only on a very limited number of voyages on very large ships.
But what one can do, even on vessels much smaller than Calypso, is to have an embedded reporter. Not an old-timey one, but a modern reporter: someone who can search the Web for information, who can write, and blog, and tweet, and take and post photographs, and record and post audio podcasts, and record and post videos, all without help from any professional engineers, using small portable digital equipment and, most importantly, doing it in nearly Real Time, not after the ship docks after the voyage.
One of those new-style embedded reporters on a research ship is Lindsey Hoshaw. I was alerted to her by a tweet by Jay Rosen on Saturday. How did she get to do that?
She is a Stanford graduate in environmental journalism who was interested in the Pacific Garbage Patch and she put her proposal on Spot.us and asked people to help her raise the necessary funds:

I’ve been offered a space aboard the ship as the only journalist to chronicle this voyage. My enthusiasm for this project is only surpassed by the amazing opportunity I’ve been offered by The New York Times to publish an article and accompanying photos of my journey.
The Times has never written extensively about the Garbage Patch and my multimedia slideshow and article will be the first of its kind for the newspaper’s website.
As a recent graduate of Stanford University’s communications program, I have a background in environmental journalism. I have produced podcasts, audio slideshows and videos about environmental issues in the Bay Area and I have been studying the Garbage Patch for the past three years.

From their side the New York Times did not promise they’ll carry the story, but appear quite inclined to do so if the quality of her work is good:

LINDSEY HOSHAW, a freelance journalist in Palo Alto, Calif., hopes to sell a multimedia slide show and maybe an article to The Times about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mass of floating plastic trash caught in swirling currents in a stretch of ocean twice the size of Texas.
But first, she has to get there. To help finance a $10,000 reporting trip aboard a research vessel, Hoshaw has turned to Spot.Us, a Web site where reporters appeal for donations to pay for their projects. If she can raise $6,000 before the September departure date — so far, only about $1,600 has come in — she will take out a loan for the rest, she said.
The Times has told Hoshaw that it might pay about $700 for the pictures, more if it also buys a story.
To some, this is exploitation — the mighty New York Times forcing a struggling journalist to beg with a virtual tin cup. But Hoshaw does not think so. To her, it is an opportunity she cannot pass up — a story she has long dreamed of, and a chance for a byline in The Times. To David Cohn, the founder of the nonprofit Spot.Us, it is a way for the public to commission journalism that it wants. For The Times, it is another step into a new world unthinkable even a few years ago.

She got on the ship today! You can follow Lindsey Hoshaw’s trip on Twitter (which she wisely separated from her personal account) and on her brand new blog.
You can follow her voyage on the Facebook page as well, where she also wrote:

What does this all mean both for Spot.Us and for the potential future of journalism? We would never claim to have answers, but we do have theories.
Every pitch on Spot.Us is defacto a collaboration. At the very least it is between the reporter and the community of supporters.
But often news organizations get involved. Sometimes we get TWO news organizations involved. In the future – I hope we can get THREE news organizations to collaborate around a single pitch.
We are producing a custom CMS that is based around the idea that “collaboration is queen.” It is the acknowledgment that no single news organization can do everything and that it is okay to “link to the rest.” It requires a new level of transparency and honesty in our reporting.

On Rebooting the News #24 this morning (I am assuming that all my readers listen to the show religiously every Monday), Jay and Dave talked about her as well:

On September 8, Lindsey Hoshaw set sail for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge pool of debris out in the middle of the Pacific that’s been known about for a while but rarely reported on or photographed. Her trip has been funded by users who think it’s an important venture. That happened at spot.us, the crowd-funding site for investigative journalism created by David Cohn, who used to work with Jay on NewAssignment.Net. (Background: See Lindsey’s original pitch in July 2009 and Jay’s original post for NewAssignment.Net back in 2006.) The New York Times has agreed to run her account and photos if they are up to Times standards. Meanwhile you can follow along on Twitter by adding thegarbagegirl.
That’s the re-booted system of news at work, already at work!
Dave: we’ve had reporters there before. Anyone who sailed by the Garbage Patch could have been our correspondent on the scene. We just have to teach them to do it.
Jay: it’s unlikely we’d be able to fund a reporter and a photographer and a videographer, which is why it’s important for journalists to be able to do multiple things.

Now you may say “Hmmm, that sounds familiar….didn’t I hear something about this before?” And yes, you did.
Another research vessel just returned from the Pacific Gyre where the crew studied the Garbage Patch. That was the Seaplex expedition, led by Miriam Goldstein, a well-known ocean blogger from the Oyster’s Garter blog. Miriam too, separated her personal Twitter account from the expedition account (I don’t actually know who from the crew tweeted from the official account). And she also blogged about it on the official Seaplex blog. So that crew also had an ’embedded reporter’ of sorts – Miriam herself.

But take another look at the crew. Notice something? Miriam was not the only experienced blogger there. Or even the most experienced as a reporter. There were three other people there whose main purpose was to record and report from the trip – the Project Kaisei people, who also used their own Twitter account. One of them is Annie Crawley, founder of DiveImagination who also tweeted from the voyage.

So it seems all these trips have young journalists embedded as reporters, or as parts of the scientific crew, using all the modern communication technologies to report from the voyages in real time as well as to prepare more robust reports afterwards.
Oh, did I say that’s all? No, Lindsey Hoshaw is not the only person with reporting and blogging experience on that ship. There is also Bonnie Monteleone on board. Bonnie is a blogger on The Plastic Ocean (associated with the organization of the same name (hat-tip to North Carolina Sierra Club Blog):

UNCW’s Bonnie Monteleone and Jennifer O’Keefe, Director of Keep America Beautiful- New Hanover County, will represent North Carolina’s passion for the ocean by going out into the Atlantic Gyre, followed by Monteleone joining Algalita Marine Research Foundation into the North Pacific Gyre. They will be taking samples to quantify pelagic plastics found on the oceans surface, collecting surface feeding fish to necropsy for ingested plastics and bringing national awareness to the issues of man made debris entering our oceans. Most of this research is personally funded and why they need your help.

So Bonnie, who is both a student at UNC-Wilmington and staff in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry there, will be able to do a direct comparison between the Atlantic and Pacific Garbage Patches. And write and post videos from both expeditions.
Ah, what a tangled web! And the distinctions are getting blurry – who is a scientist, who is crew, who is journalist? Everyone is a little bit of everything these days. The journalists are surrounded by scientists – a constant source of information – and scientists are surrounded by journalists – a constant source of questions. They both also help with the daily ship routines (there is no space on small ships for freeloaders – hoist the sails!). And they all report from the voyage, each in his or her own way, some focusing more on the science, others more on the human connection, both at least some on the personal experience.
Now, if you’ve ever been to one of the ScienceOnline conferences (e.g., last year, or the year before….), you know that Ocean Bloggers are a jolly bunch – they come to the conference and what do they do for three days non-stop? They sing Sea Shanties! But they also do the best, most creative and most informative sessions! They are totally at the cutting edge of the new online technologies and many of them are awesome writers.
Karen, Craig, Kevin, Miriam, Mark, Jennifer, Rick, Allie, Christie, James, Jason, Sheril, Andrew and David and many others are all amazing bloggers! And very active on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and elsewhere online (it is entirely possible that Karen tweets more times per day than I do!).
And I know that most of them are planning to come to ScienceOnline2010. I have learned that the best thing to do with the Ocean Bloggers is to give them an one-hour time slot and let them loose. They don’t need no guidance from me – they are much more creative than I am and ‘get’ the spirit of the Unconference better than most. They’ll plot something in secret and surprise us all right there and then.
Also, what I did as soon as I saw Jay’s original tweet was start following Lindsey Hoshaw on Twitter. She followed me back so we could exchange Direct Messages….and, she’ll also try to come to ScienceOnline2010. Now I just need to catch Bonnie (she is in Wilmington, an hour’s drive from here – perhaps she can carpool with Anne-Marie) and Annie Crawley and all the ’embedded reporters’ and bloggers from all of this summer’s Garbage Patch voyages will be there. So perhaps they can all get together and tell us all about it – compare notes. Each one of them came to this with a different background, with different skills and experiences, with different goals. What did they learn about modern journalism out at sea?
Or perhaps they can put all of their stuff together – all the tweets, blog posts, photographs, podcasts, videos and polished articles (or at least links to polished articles if they are published in corporate media, e.g., New York Times) can, perhaps, be placed in a single online spot which we can then all link to and boost the Google rank so people who search for the ‘Garbage Patch’ find it up high in their searches. Perhaps they can plot how to do it at their session. Or, knowing them, they can do it quicker and use the conference to unveil the site to the world.
Remember what Lindsey Hoshaw wrote (above):

What does this all mean both for Spot.Us and for the potential future of journalism? We would never claim to have answers, but we do have theories. Every pitch on Spot.Us is defacto a collaboration. At the very least it is between the reporter and the community of supporters. But often news organizations get involved. Sometimes we get TWO news organizations involved. In the future – I hope we can get THREE news organizations to collaborate around a single pitch. We are producing a custom CMS that is based around the idea that “collaboration is queen.” It is the acknowledgment that no single news organization can do everything and that it is okay to “link to the rest.” It requires a new level of transparency and honesty in our reporting.

Today, we are all Jacques-Yves Cousteau. And all of the filming crew.
Last year some of the ocean bloggers were involved in the session with the title “Hey! You Can’t Say That!”. Perhaps next year they can call the session “Oh, You Bet I Can Talk Trash!” or “Blogging Garbage” or, like this post, “Talking Trash”….
Whatever they decide to do, I am looking forward to the result, and to their session. And the Sea Shanties the evening after it.

‘Bloggers’ vs ‘Audience’ is over? or, Will the word ‘blogger’ disappear?

The New Scientist, The Open Laboratory, the journos who just don’t get it….those things make me want to write something on this blog!
Slow blogging…like slow food. These days, if something cannot wait, I put it on Twitter – from which it automatically goes to FriendFeed and Facebook where I may or may not get feedback. But blog posts – those take some thinking. It may take days, or weeks (or never) for the idea to crystallize enough to deserve a blog post (and for me to find time to sit down and write it). So, I am coming back to this discussion now although all the other players have moved on a week ago or more. But it is an interesting topic (to me, at least). So I hope you don’t find this stale.
It all started when Jay Rosen, at Netroots Nation, gave a hyperbrief interview:

We asked Rosen what he thought of the term “blogger” and how there is not a word to distinguish a journalist who blogs and a numbnut who blogs.
“Blogger will become such a broad term it will lose all meaning,” he told FBLA.
So in five years will “blogger” be synonymous with “writer?” Will telling someone you’re a blogger need the same follow up question as there is for when you tell someone you’re a writer?
Jay Rosen seems to think so.

Dunno about “writer” – blog is a software that is quite versatile, i.e., it is not just “writing” that a blog can be used for: images, audio, video, imported feed & tweets, etc. can also go there – it’s all “journalism” in a broader sense of the word. I am also not happy with the original question: what is a word that distinguishes a good journalist from a numbnut journalist, and does it matter if one or the other uses a blog as a tool?
Matt Yglesias immediately responded to that interview:

That seems about right. One thing you see even within the smaller universe of the “netroots” is that at each annual Yearly Kos / Netroots Nation convention there’s larger and larger amounts of divergence between what people are doing. Some of the folks who are newer to the game don’t totally appreciate this dynamic, but I recall how back in 2002-2003 there was a pretty undifferentiated mush of “liberal bloggers” that’s become a much more elaborated ecology of people and institutions doing pretty different things.

Sure, some blogs written initially by individual bloggers grew into huge blogging communities (e.g., DailyKos), some joined forces in group blogs (e.g., Firedoglake), some turned ‘pro’ and are now blogging for MSM (e.g., Ezra Klein), and some turned their blogs into online journalistic endeavors (e.g., Talking Points Memo). And some moved largely away from politics and continue blogging about the things they really know, their area of expertise (including science, like I did).
To all of this, Jay, on Twitter, adds:

We don’t say “Emailer James Fallows,” even though he uses email. Eventually, it will be the same with the term “blogger.”

I agree with this clarification. Blog is just one of many technical ways to convey information. I think the phrase “Blogger Jones” will go away. But sometimes it is important to state how one got the information. So, one may say “Jones blogged it”, or “I got this from Sally via e-mail”, or “as Neal wrote in his 1996 book”, or “Anne told me over dinner last night”, or “in Jim’s op-ed in WaPo yesterday”, or “via Dave on Twitter”, or “Elizabeth texted me”, or “Bill posted on Facebook”, or “Chris told me over the phone a minute ago”. All of those media channels are useful for various purposes.
No medium has a higher coefficient of trustworthiness than any other. You can overhear a perfectly True statement in a coffee shop and you can read a whole bunch of lies in a newspaper. Whatever the medium, you need to learn how to figure out who to trust. After all, if you live in NY City, how did you figure out as a kid that NY Times is more trustworthy than NY Post? Parents, neighbors, friends told you, and then you read a few issues of each yourself, right? That is exactly how you figure out that you can trust Shakesville and not trust Powerline – see who your friends trust, mistrust or recommend, then see for yourself over a period of time or dig through the archives. Use your brain, as well as your trusted friends, to help you make up your mind.
Don’t forget that NYT brought us Jayson Blair, Science Magazine the stem cell fraud, The New Republic Stephen Glass and the mainstream historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose engaged in plagiarism. On the other hand here is a list of a few most notable examples of bloggers doing spectacular investigative journalism.
Or, as Douglas Adams wrote back in 1999:

Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’* What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.

On the other hand, Scott Rosenberg is not so sure the word ‘blogger’ is going to go away so easily:

“Blogger” confuses us today because we’ve conflated two different meanings of “blogging.” There is the formal definition: personal website, reverse chronological order, lots of links. Then there is what I would call the ideological definition: a bundle of associations many observers made with blogs in their formative years, having to do with DIY authenticity, amateur self-expression, defiant “disintermediation” (cutting out the media middleman), and so on.

I do not think that “personal website” is a part of the formal definition. It’s software. It just so happened that some of the most popular early blogs were personal, but that is not formal, it’s coincident, a historical artifact or contingency. Also, “observers … in their formative years” were mostly clueless journalists in the mold of Andrew Keen, scared shitless of what they perceived as competition (or deadly sunshine – they for the first time could not get away with lazily winging it and had to start checking their facts lest they are checked by bloggers and found wanting).
Scott continues:

Today professional journalism has embraced the blog form, since it is a versatile and effective Web-native format for posting news. But once you have dozens of bloggers at the New York Times, or entire media companies built around blogs, the ideological trappings of blogging are only going to cause confusion.
Still — wary as I am of taking issue with Rosen, whose prescience is formidable — I don’t think we will see the term “blogger” fade away any time soon. There’s a difference between a term that’s so broad it’s lost all meaning and a term that has a couple of useful meanings that may conflict with each other.
After all, we still use the word “journalist,” even though it has cracked in two (“journalist” as professional label vs. “journalist” as descriptor of an activity). This is where human language (what programmers call “natural language”) differs from computer languages: our usage of individual words changes as it records our experience with their evolving meanings.
In other words, the multiple meanings of the word “blogger” may bedevil us, but they also tell a story.

I agree. The term will not disappear (at least for a while) – not because it’s useful but because there are people who find it useful for their own nefarious purposes. And so sayeth Glenn Greenwald who really nails it on why corporate journalists like to use the term:

The word “blogger” — not unlike the word “liberal,” actually — means so many different things to so many different people that it is almost impossible now to understand what it denotes. I’d love to hear how I’m a “blogger” in a way that, say, Time’s Joe Klein and Michael Scherer or Politico’s Ben Smith or The New York Times’ Paul Krugman (or even Huckabee himself) are not. There are meaningful distinctions that I think still exist — in terms of self-perceived function, insider/outsider status, and tone, among other things — but they have eroded to the point where the term is almost entirely impoverished of any meaning.
Despite that, I doubt that the frequent and casual use of the label will cease any time soon. Its true function — enforcing perceived hierarchies and slothfully demonizing arguments and people — are too valuable to too many media figures. It’s still the case that for many media stars and their friends (to say nothing of right-wing politicians), being able to attribute criticisms to “bloggers” or “liberal bloggers” is to render the criticism inherently invalid for that reason alone. [my bold] As long as that’s the case, the term will be tossed around recklessly and constantly, regardless of whether it has any real meaning.

Yes. By saying “this argument comes from a blogger”, one can dismiss the argument entirely and not ever have to answer to it – no matter how correct it may be. An easy – and dishonest – way out of being called out on saying a lie, isn’t it? And this is how corporate journalists actively protect all sorts of liars, from Republicans to Creationists to Global Warming denialists to anti-vaccinationists to, of course, everyone who points out how media lies to us all the time. A nifty little trick, ain’t it? Just sneer at “dirty, hippy bloggers”, chuckle, and keep on lying.
Which is why more and more people distrust the media – bloggers, especially bloggers with real expertise that journalists don’t have, have opened their eyes to the lying of the press:

I automatically do NOT believe anything coming from corporate media. I check blogs to see what they say if I catch some news on MSM first (rarely these days). Some blogs can be trusted 100% of the time, some 90%, some occasionally, some never. It takes time and effort to figure out who is who, but that effort is worth it – you get immunized from MSM lies. You also learn the skills of critically reading between the lines of MSM and evaluating their “news” for accuracy and validity yourself.
And you always check a multitude of trusted bloggers, never just one, no matter how trusted. So, why should people trust a single MSM source? Beats me! I don’t even trust the multitudes.

And I am not the only one with this attitude. The idea that the corporate media is trustworthy has been steadily falling from about 58% in 1988 to merely 38% in 2004. I am afraid to ask what the number is today, five years later, as so many more people had their eyes opened in the meantime….
But the word ‘blogger’, apart from the formal “whoever is using blogging software” also has cultural connotations which are important for this discussion:

Dave Winer, one of the founders of blogging, says a blog is not defined by the software or features in the format (like comments) but by a person talking: “one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think.” Blogging, he says, is “writing without a safety net” and taking personal responsibility for the words.
To trust a blogger is to trust in a person, talking to you, who is working without the safety net of an institution.

Which is why ‘Journalists vs. Blogs’ is bad framing:

When you say “newspapers will (or will not) be replaced by blogs”, you invoke two demonstrably erroneous frames in readers’ minds:
a) that “newspapers = journalism”, and
b) that “blogs = inane chatter”.
Journalism is medium-neutral. Not just in newspapers. Journalism can and does happen on paper, over radio waves, on TV and online. A lot of other stuff also has its place on all those communication channels as well.
The phrase also elicits the ‘opposition’ frame of mind – there are two terms and they are presented as mutually exclusive and opposite from each other. In other words, journalism is presented as exact opposite and fierce competitor of blogs and vice versa.
This ‘opposition’ frame, by defining newspapers as equating journalism, then leaves only the non-journalistic stuff to the term “blogs”. Thus, the word “blog” in the phrase automatically reminds people of inane navel-gazing, teenage angst, copy-and-paste news and LOLcats found on so many blogs.
But, remember that a blog is software, not a style. Thus the first thought upon hearing the word “blog” in the context of journalism should be TPM, HuffPo, Firedoglake, etc., not Cute Overload.
Guess who planted that framing? The journalistic curmudgeons like Keen, Henry, Mulshine at al, in their endless Luddite op-eds railing against the internet.

Now, you may remember that Jay Rosen has written a famous post Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over (yes, all the way back on January 21, 2005):

Chris Willis, co-author of a key report, We Media, said in a recent interview with a Spanish journalist: “What is the most unsettling thing for media professionals is not change but how the change is happening and where it is coming from. Change is not coming from traditional competitors but from the audience they serve. What could be more frightening?”
And some of that fear had crept into bloggers vs. journalists, making it a cartoon dialogue.

The thing is, there is no such thing as ‘bloggers’ except as a bogeyman for journalists – we are all The People Formerly Known as the Audience:

The people formerly known as the audience wish to inform media people of our existence, and of a shift in power that goes with the platform shift you’ve all heard about.
Think of passengers on your ship who got a boat of their own. The writing readers. The viewers who picked up a camera. The formerly atomized listeners who with modest effort can connect with each other and gain the means to speak– to the world, as it were.
———————
You don’t own the eyeballs. You don’t own the press, which is now divided into pro and amateur zones. You don’t control production on the new platform, which isn’t one-way. There’s a new balance of power between you and us.
The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable. You should welcome that, media people. But whether you do or not we want you to know we’re here.

Here is Douglas Adams in 1999 again:

For instance, ‘interactivity’ is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal tweezers, but the reason we suddenly need such a word is that during this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport – the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.
I expect that history will show ‘normal’ mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. ‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’
‘Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.’
‘What was the Restoration again, please, miss?’
‘The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.’

The usual dichotomy one hears about is ‘Journalists vs. Bloggers’. But if bloggers are people formerly known as audience, then it can also be re-stated as ‘Journalists vs. Audience”, right? Getting pitted against their own audience makes journalists very uncomfortable. A nice way out, or a way to resolve cognitive dissonance, is to relegate bloggers to the status of The Other – those dirty, hippy loudmouths who just yesterday landed here from Mars and have no idea what they are talking about.
Which is how Michael Le Page sees it:

My review was not aimed at bloggers at all, it was aimed at readers of New Scientist’s print magazine.

A? Say that again? Let me try to translate that:
“My review was not aimed at the audience that talks back, it was aimed at audience that stays pleasantly silent.”
or
“My review was not aimed at people whose criticisms hurt my fragile ego, it was aimed at the quiet ones who I will imagine, in order to feel good about myself, agree with me.”
or
“Eh, where are the good old days when I could write whatever nonsense I wanted without ever hearing back from anybody about it?”
(BTW, what is it about The New Scientist – are they the worst popular science magazine in the history of the Universe and a cesspool of sensationalism and EvoPsych because they are run by the most Web-ignorant science journalists in the world, or is it the other way round – the magazine being so bad that the good guys won’t work there so the place became a refuge for the losers? A chicken-and-egg question.)
This is probably one of the most blatant examples of clearly stated ignorance and arrogance. The world is neatly divided into “audience” and “Martians”. He loves the “audience” and hates “Martians” because he can talk down to the former while the latter make him squirm. He will not understand – it must hurt too much – that those two artificial categories of people are one and the same. The Martians were here all along. The only difference is that today, it is easy to talk back.
But there is another layer of this. The assumption that the silent audience agrees with him is unwarranted. They are probably nodding along and agreeing with the Bloggers. Remember that 1% are bloggers, 9% are commenters and 90% are silent readers.
If he writes an article and 5 bloggers slam him on their blogs, he is not being criticized by only five individuals he could dismiss. Those five bloggers are (self-appointed, but approved by their readers) spokesmen for thousands, perhaps millions of readers who rewards those bloggers with traffic, subscriptions, comments and incoming links every day. All those people may not criticize you directly, but they criticize you indirectly by supporting the bloggers who do it in their name and do it well. Very few people have the mental constitution (or pathology) to keep reading and rewarding bloggers they disagree with. Even fewer will support bad bloggers. So if a blogger with big traffic criticizes you (or a number of smaller bloggers are saying pretty much the same thing), this means that you are criticized by a very large number of people who agree with him/her – numbers that are hard to dismiss because they are probably bigger than your print-edition audience put together. By dissing “some bloggers” you are dissing your entire audience plus many more people who could be your potential audience – and you lose them forever by the act of snidely dismissing them.
You see, when he says:

I’m sure a few New Scientist readers are bloggers, but certainly only a small minority.

it is obvious he does not get the above. A small minority talks back. The others support them and laugh along. They are all bloggers, regardless if they write their own blogs or not. As we agreed at the beginning of the post, the word “bloggers” is meaningless – it is the audience whose representatives talk back. Only by using it in a derisive fashion, implicating them as The Other, can journalists keep imagining that most of their audience still looks up to them and admires their wisdom.
And when Michael continues with:

…that the overall effect of blogging is negative, that it has helped spread myths and lies…

…he is clearly not seeing the big picture: the media lies, or allows others (e.g., politicians) to lie. Bloggers (and their readers and commenters) come in and debunk the lies. Some liars also use the blogging software to spread lies. But other bloggers, those who debunk lies, will do it with zeal and they are bigger and more numerous than the lying ones. When PZ Myers links to me, my Sitemeter goes berserk. When a Creationist blog links to me, I can hardly detect it – there is barely any traffic coming in from any of their sites. They may be loud, but they are in the minority and their Google Fu is miserably low. Truth wins out in the end. It may take some time on some issues, but it will prevail eventually.
Finally, a little bit about the psychology of commenting. Let’s say you publish an article that is full of crap. The commenting is difficult and may require a tortuous registration process. And you get 10 comments, all slamming you. What does that mean? That 10 lunatics wrote comments while thousands of your readers actually agree with you? No, the activation energy for commenting is very high. In order to post a comment, one has to be highly motivated. More wrong you are, more likely it is that some of the people will be motivated to set you straight. And they do. What happens next? The other readers see those 10 comments, agree with them, note that all bases are covered, and now their motivation is not sufficient to overcome the activation energy needed to add yet another comment that would just rehash what the first 10 already said. So they just chuckle and move on. The only person who may be motivated to comment at this point is someone who agrees with you and disagrees with the first 10 commenters and wants to chime in. Did you get a comment like that? No? Really? So, you may think that only 10 lunatics disagree with you, while in fact everybody disagrees with you. It’s just that 90% of the people do not post comments – they only check in to see if their representatives – those you call “bloggers” – have done it well in their name.
————————————
* But, see what my SciBling Kim said on Twitter the other day:

As a geologist, I find “set in stone” to be a very odd metaphor for permanence.

I don’t care about business models of journalism/publishing.

I am feeling mean today. So, here is my first mean post of the day.
About a week ago I read this delicious post about the business of scientific publishing. It is a good read throughout – the title of the post is “Who is killing science on the Web? Publishers or Scientists?” and the answer is interesting. But what stood out for me was this paragraph:

This past February, I was on a panel discussion at the annual NFAIS conference, a popular forum for academic publishers. The conference theme was on digital natives in science. At one point I was asked (rather rudely) by a rep from a major publisher what exactly the new business model should look like for publishers in an Open Access world. My first thought was, “I don’t care if you find one or not. I’m here to advance science, not your bottom line.”

And that paragraph can be equally applied to all of publishing, not just science: from newspapers to books. Just replace “science” with “journalism” or “Truth”.
Business model! Business model! All they care about is business model. I am excited about the way the Web is transforming society and all they care is how to save their jobs! I get it – they should care. The new media ecosystem can support a much smaller number of professional journalists than the old one. So many (though not all) will lose their jobs. I don’t have an interest in that aspect of the media business at all. If they have any other expertise besides scribbling, they will find other jobs once their media houses lock the doors. If not, tough. But I am really not interested in their livelihoods. Just like blacksmiths found jobs in car factories, the journos will find something else to do. I am interested in the ways new media channels are changing the world, not the parochial or individual insecurities of those whose world is changing. I am an interested observer of the revolution and saving the inevitable victims is not my job.

Blogger Asks for Payment From a Newspaper (video)

Student journalists are doing it right – The new The Daily Tar Heel rocks!

I am proud to live in Chapel Hill, the home of UNC and it’s campus newspaper The Daily Tar Heel. As soon as they got elected to their new editorial and managerial positions a couple of months ago, Sara Gregory, Emily Stephenson, Andrew Dunn and the rest of the crew opened up new channels of communication, including a Twitter account and a Facebook page. Did they use those to broadcast how brilliant they are and what great ideas they have in their heads? No, they used them to ask, ask, ask and to listen, listen, listen. Within days they organized an open-door meeting, inviting people from UNC and Chapel Hill communities to come and tell them how they see the campus paper evolve.
The result, a couple of months later, is a brand new newspaper. Last night they unveiled a brand new website. But it’s not just a spiffy website – that would be too cosmetic. It is a very different approach to journalism, much more attuned to the new media ecosystem.
Read their introduction – there are some new ways of doing things there. For example, they understand the ‘Ethic of the Link’:

We started putting links in some of our stories over the summer. This semester we plan to link in all our stories. Our theory with linking is this: We aim to offer you the best news possible. But if someone else does it better, we owe it to you to share with you. Reporters writing for many of our blogs will also be using Publish2 to share links of what they’re reading.

They understand the role of the community and having it involved:

We know we can’t be everywhere, and we want you to share your college experience with us. You can send us photos or story ideas the following ways:
* E-mail Emily Stephenson.
* Post to our Facebook page. You can post photos or write on our wall.
* Tweet to @dailytarheel, @dthbreak or @ewstephe. Include #UNC or #dthcampuspics.
* Post photos to Flickr and tag them with #dthcampuspics.

They are using their new blogs and the social networks very well and I am looking forward to see what they do over the next year:

Praxis

A run-down of good recent stuff, highly recommended for your weekend reading and bookmarking:
PLoS One: Interview with Peter Binfield:

…In my view PLoS ONE is the most dynamic, innovative and exciting journal in the world, and I am proud to work on it.
In many ways PLoS ONE operates like any other journal however it diverges in several important respects. The founding principle of PLoS ONE was that there are certain aspects of publishing which are best conducted pre-publication and certain aspects which are best conducted post-publication. The advent of online publishing has allowed us to take a step back and re-evaluate these aspects of how we publish research, without the burden of centuries of tradition. In this way, we have been able to experiment with new ways of doing things which may result in dramatic improvements in the entire process of scholarly publication.
The most important thing which has come out of this premise is that unlike almost every other journal in the world, we make no judgment call whatsoever on the ‘impact’ or ‘significance’ or ‘interest level’ of any submission. What this means is that if an article appropriately reports on well-conducted science, and if it passes our peer review process (which determines whether it deserves to join the scientific literature) then we will publish it. In this way, no author should ever receive the message that their article is scientifically sound but ‘not interesting enough’ for our journal, or that their article is ‘only suited to a specialized audience’. As a result, we short circuit the vicious cycle of “submit to a ‘top tier’ journal; get reviewed; get rejected; submit to the next journal down the list; repeat until accepted” and we are therefore able to place good science into the public domain as promptly as possible, with the minimum of burden on the academic community….

The evolution of scientific impact (also a good FriendFeed thread about it):

What is clear to me is this – science and society are much richer and more interconnected now than at any time in history. There are many more people contributing to science in many more ways now than ever before. Science is becoming more broad (we know about more things) and more deep (we know more about these things). At the same time, print publishing is fading, content is exploding, and technology makes it possible to present, share, and analyze information faster and more powerfully.
For these reasons, I believe (as many others do) that the traditional model of peer-reviewed journals should and will necessarily change significantly over the next decade or so.

A threat to scientific communication (read excellent responses by Peter Murray-Rast and Bjoern Brembs and a thread on FriendFeed):

Sulston argues that the use of journal metrics is not only a flimsy guarantee of the best work (his prize-winning discovery was never published in a top journal), but he also believes that the system puts pressure on scientists to act in ways that adversely affect science – from claiming work is more novel than it actually is to over-hyping, over-interpreting and prematurely publishing it, splitting publications to get more credits and, in extreme situations, even committing fraud.
The system also creates what he characterises as an “inefficient treadmill” of resubmissions to the journal hierarchy. The whole process ropes in many more reviewers than necessary, reduces the time available for research, places a heavier burden on peer review and delays the communication of important results.

Why do we still publish scientific papers?:

I agree with the need to filter papers, but I want to be in control of the filter. I don’t want editors to control my filter and I definitely don’t want a monopolist like Thomson to muck up my filter. I don’t care where something is published, if it’s in my direct field I need to read it, no matter how bad it is. If a paper is in my broader field, I’d apply some light filtering, such as rating, comments, downloads, author institute, social bookmarks, or some such. If the paper is in a related field, I’d like to only read reviews of recent advances. If it’s in an unrelated field, but one I’m interested in nonetheless, I’d only want to see the news-and-views article, because I wouldn’t understand anything else anyway. For everything else, titles, headlines or newsreports are good enough for browsing. All of this can be done after publishing and certainly doesn’t require any artificial grouping by pseudo-tags (formerly called journals).

Science Jabberwocky (how to read/understand a scientific paper when you don’t know the technical terms):

I have to confess that in areas outside mine, there seems to be a terrible array of words no more obvious than ‘brillig’ and ‘slithy’. And words that look familiar, like ‘gyre and gimble’, but which don’t look like they are supposed to mean what I’m used to them meaning.

Media tracking:

The theropod behaviour paper that I have been boring you all with this last week or so has been the first time I have had decent control over the media access to my work and by extension the first time I have had a good idea of what happened to the original press release. I know what I sent to whom and when and thus can fairly easily track what happened afterwards to record the spread and exchange of information from that origin. In the past on the Musings I have targeted inaccuracies in news reports of scientific stories but without knowing the exact details of a story (I may have access to the press release but without knowing who it went to). Well, not so this time and as a result the pattern of reporting I can see is both interesting and informative both from understanding how the media works and knowing how to get your own work publicised.

Rapid evolution of rodents: another PLoS ONE study in the media:

Although media attention and coverage is not, and should certainly not be, the only criterion for scientific “quality” (whatever that is!), it is further testimony of the advantage to publish in “Open Acess”-journals in general, and PLoS ONE in particular. This study is also interesting because it shows the value of museum collections as a source for ecological and evolutionary research, a point that Shawn Kuchta has repeatedly emphasized in our lab-meetings (and which I completely agree with, of course).

20 Quick Points from ‘The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education’:

9. Open Access Journals (Opener #5): The publishing world is increasing becoming open access. Open access journals in the healthcare area provide invaluable information to those in the developing world. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) offers free peer-reviewed scientific journals. Scientists who publish in PLoS journals might present their work in SciVee. SciVee allows the user to hear or see the scientist explain his or her research in what is known as pubcasts.

Pedagogy and the Class Blog:

I’ve been using blogs in my teaching for several years now, so I wanted to share a few ideas that have worked for me. I’m no expert and I’m still casting about for solutions to some of the more nagging problems, but after thirteen course blogs spread across seven semesters (I just counted!), I have obtained a small measure of experience. In other words, I keep making mistakes, but at least not the same ones over and over.

Practicing Medicine in the Age of Facebook:

In my second week of medical internship, I received a “friend request” on Facebook, the popular social-networking Web site. The name of the requester was familiar: Erica Baxter. Three years earlier, as a medical student, I had participated in the delivery of Ms. Baxter’s baby. Now, apparently, she wanted to be back in touch…..

Are young people of today Relationally Starved?:

The more I toss it around, I’m not so sure that our students are “relationally starved.” I just think that relationships look much different today than they have in generations past. Their relationships are more fluid and maybe a little more fragile. It is obvious that advances in technology have changed the way relationships are built and maintained (it has for me). This doesn’t mean that children aren’t in need of the same nurturing and love that we might have had, but there are other layers that we need to ask them about. And I think that might be the key, ASK THEM!

The New Yorker vs. the Kindle:

Now, let’s imagine for a moment that we are back in the 15th century, to be precise just shortly after 1439, when Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg invented movable type printing. I can only imagine the complaints that Baker would have uttered in the local paper (which was, of course, copied by hand from the original dictation). What? Only one title on the catalog? (The Bible.) Oh, and the fonts are sooo boring compared to handwriting. And no colors! And the quality of the drawings, simply unacceptable. This movable type printing thing will never ever replace the amanuenses, it will simply die as yet another “modern invention” and things will keep being just the same as they have been throughout what they at the time didn’t yet call the Middle Ages.

The New Yorker & The News Biz:

After many years, I am finally subscribing to the New Yorker again. Not in print, but via their Digital Reader. I’m blogging about it because I like their model: the Digital Reader adds something I wouldn’t get from the library version, and I feel like this new model bears watching as we migrate from print to online.

The psychology of reading for pleasure:

According to a neurological study that Nell performed, processing demands are higher with books than other media (movies, television) but that also means that when you are absorbed in a book, you are more likely to block out distractions. While readers describe being absorbed in a book as “effortless,” their brains are actually intensely active. As one critic said, this is not an escape from thinking, it’s an escape into thinking – intensely, and without distraction.

How Twitter works in theory:

The key to Twitter is that it is phatic – full of social gestures that are like apes grooming each other. Both Google and Twitter have little boxes for you to type into, but on Google you’re looking for information, and expecting a machine response, whereas on Twitter you’re declaring an emotion and expecting a human response. This is what leads to unintentionally ironic newspaper columns bemoaning public banality, because they miss that while you don’t care what random strangers feel about their lunch, you do if its your friend on holiday in Pompeii.
——————–
For those with Habermas’s assumption of a single common public sphere this makes no sense – surely everyone should see everything that anyone says as part of the discussion? In fact this has never made sense, and in the past elaborate systems have been set up to ensure that only a few can speak, and only one person can speak at a time, because a speech-like, real-time discourse has been the foundational assumption.
Too often this worldview has been built into the default assumptions of communications online; we see it now with privileged speakers decrying the use of anonymity in the same tones as 19th century politicians defended hustings in rotten boroughs instead of secret ballots. Thus the tactics of shouting down debate in town halls show up as the baiting and trollery that make YouTube comments a byword for idiocy; when all hear the words of one, the conversation often decays.

Blogging Evolution (PDF):

I describe the general characteristics of blogs, contrasting blogs with other of WWW formats for self-publishing. I describe four categories for blogs about evolutionary biology: “professional,” “amateur,” “apostolic,” and “imaginative.” I also discuss blog networks. I identify paradigms of each category. Throughout, I aim to illuminate blogs about evolutionary biology from the point of view of a
user looking for information about the topic. I conclude that blogs are not the best type of source for systematic and authoritative information about evolution, and that they are best used by the information-seeker as a way of identifying what issues are of interest in the community of evolutionists and for generating research leads or fresh insights on one’s own work.

What Do Mathematicians Need to Know About Blogging?:

Steven Krantz asked me to write an opinion piece about math blogging in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. I asked if I could talk about this column on my blog, and even have people comment on drafts of it before it comes out in the Notices. He said okay. So, just to get the ball rolling, let me ask: what do you think mathematicians need to know about blogging?

Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing and Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing, pt. 2:

Journalists are pretty good at working the scene of a disaster. They’ll tell you what happened, who did it, and why.
But when it comes to the disaster engulfing their own profession, their analysis is less rigorous. An uncharacteristic haze characterizes a lot of the reporting and commentary on the current crisis of the industry.
It could have been brought on by delicacy, perhaps romanticism. And since it is not just any crisis, but a definitive one–one that seems to mean an end to the physical papers’ role in American life as we have come to know it–perhaps there’s a little bit of shell-shock in the mix as well.

Online Community Building: Gardening vs Landscaping:

The Gardener creates an ecosystem open to change, available to new groups, and full of fresh opportunities to emerge naturally. The approach is focused on organic collaboration and growth for the entire community. The gardener is simply there to help, cultivate, and clear the weeds if/when they poke up.
The Landscaper creates an ecosystem that matches a preconceived design or pattern. The approach is focused on executing a preconceived environment, regardless of how natural or organic it may be for the larger area. The landscaper is there to ensure that everything stays just as planned.

Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style (book review):

So I end up feeling a bit torn. He’s telling us “Don’t be such a scientist”, and it’s true that there are many occasions when the scientific attitude can generate unnecessary obstacles to accomplishing our goals. At the same time, though, I want to say “Do be such a scientist”, because it’s part of our identity and it makes us stand out as unusual and, like Randy, interesting, even if it sometimes does make us a bit abrasive. But, you know, some of us revel in our abrasiveness; it’s fun.

This has also been in the news a lot last week:
Threats to science-based medicine: Pharma ghostwriting
Wyeth, ‘Ghost-Writing’ and Conflict of Interest
More On Ghostwriting, Wyeth and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Wyeth’s ghostwriting skeletons yanked from the closet
Ghostwriters in the sky
Quickie Must-Read Link … (probably the best commentary of them all).
Several recent posts on the topic dear to my heart – the so-called “civility” in public (including online) discourse:
How Creationism (and Other Idiocies) Are Mainstreamed:

One of the things that has enabled the mainstreaming of various idiocies, from altie woo, to creationism, to global warming denialism is mainstream corporate media’s inability to accurately describe lunacy. For obvious reasons, ‘family-friendly’ newspapers and teevee can’t call creationists, birthers, or deathers batshit lunatic or fucking morons. This is where ‘civility’ (beyond the basic norms of decency when dealing with the mentally ill) and pretensions of ‘balance’ utterly fail.

Weekend Diversion: How to Argue:

You are, of course, free to argue however you like. But if you want to argue on my site, you’re really best off remembering this hierarchy, and staying as high as possible on it. Most of you do pretty well, but this has served me well in general, and I hope it helps you to see things laid out like this. And if not, at least you got a great song out of it!

When an image makes an argument:

Along similar lines to a frequentist interpretation of the strata, maybe this pyramid is conveying something about the ease or difficulty inherent in different types of engagement. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to call someone an asshat, but understanding her argument well enough to raise a good counterexample to it may take some mental labor. If this is the rhetorical work that the pyramidal layout does here, it may also suggest a corresponding hierarchy of people who have the mental skills to engage in each of these ways — making the people at the tippy-top of the pyramid more elite than those using the strategies from lower strata.

How to Argue…:

White men are sufficiently privileged enough to demand that they be treated respectfully while white women, at best, can expect to be presented with contradiction and counterargument. When I saw the category “responding to tone” I thought of the “angry black man” who, although perhaps right, is castigated for his anger and lack of civility for not conforming to the norms of white society. If you’re a non-white woman? Then, the best you can do is hope to not be denied food and shelter if you don’t fuck your husband enough (h/t to Free-Ride for pointing this article out), but you only expect to be part of the discussion if you’re allowed to be.
————————–
The call to civility is a frequent tactic to derail the discussion and is as much of an ad hominem attack as calling someone a cocknozzle. It fails to recognize the perspective of the other party or appreciate why they might be angry.

More on the topic:
Dr. Isis Learns to Argue:

I am lucky to have such thoughtful commenters. When I wrote the previous post I had no idea that bleeding from my vagina was clouding my judgement. Then, just when I thought I had cleared enough of the estrogen from my girl brain to understand, I learned that this was all a carefully planned tactic to teach me a lesson. Damn! I hate when that happens!

Weekend Diversion: How to argue…and actually accomplish something:

Here we arrive at the meat of the matter. Once having accomplished more than about 300 ms worth of consideration of a given topic, people are highly resistant to the idea that their rationale, conclusions and evidence base might actually be wrong. And the wronger the consideration might be, the more resistant to acknowledgment is the individual. We might think of this as the intrapersonal Overton window.

A Tale of Two Nations: the Civil War may have been won by the North, but in truth the South never emotionally conceded.:

The Civil War may have been won by the North, but in truth the South never emotionally conceded.
The Town Hall mobs, the birthers, the teabaggers are all part of that long line of “coded” agitators for the notions of white entitlement and “conservative values.”
Of course, this conservative viewpoint values cheap labor and unabated use of natural resources over technological and economic innovation. It also – and this is its hot molten core – fundamentally believes that white people are born with a divine advantage over people of other skin colors, and are chosen by God to lead the heathen hordes.
That a Town Hall mob is itself a heathen horde would never occur to the economically stressed whites who listen to the lies of the likes of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs. Lies that confirm an emotionally reinforcing worldview – however heinous – become truths for those in psychological need of feeling superior and chosen.

I remember an America where black men didn’t grow up to be President.:

And all of them are asking for their America back. I wonder which America that would be?
Would that be the America where the Supreme Court picks your president instead of counting all the votes? Would that be the America where rights to privacy are ignored? Would that be the America where the Vice President shoots his best friend in the face? Or would that be the America where an idiot from Alaska and a college drop-out with a radio show could become the torchbearers for the now illiterate Republican party?
I fear that would not be the America they want back. I fear that the America they want back is the one where black men don’t become President.
I remember that America. In that America people screaming at public gatherings were called out for what they were – an angry mob. Of course, they wore sheets to cover up their bad hair. Let’s be clear about something: if you show up to a town hall meeting with a gun strapped to your leg, the point you are trying to make isn’t a good one. Fear never produced anything worthwhile.

In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition:

The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America’s flora. Only now, it’s being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills — the one hysterics turned into the “death panel” canard — is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of “complaints over the provision.”

Two oldies but goodies:
Atheists and Anger:

One of the most common criticisms lobbed at the newly-vocal atheist community is, “Why do you have to be so angry?” So I want to talk about:
1. Why atheists are angry;
2. Why our anger is valid, valuable, and necessary;
And 3. Why it’s completely fucked-up to try to take our anger away from us.

Atheists and Anger: A Reply to the Hurricane:

Now my replies to the critics. I suppose I shouldn’t bother, I suppose I should just let it go and focus on the love. But I seem to be constitutionally incapable of letting unfair or inaccurate accusations just slide. So here are my replies to some of the critical comments’ common themes.

The Privilege of Politeness:

One item that comes up over and over in discussions of racism is that of tone/attitude. People of Color (POC) are very often called on their tone when they bring up racism, the idea being that if POC were just more polite about the whole thing the offending person would have listened and apologized right away. This not only derails the discussion but also tries to turn the insults/race issues into the fault of POC and their tone. Many POC have come to the realization that the expectation of politeness when saying something insulting is a form of privilege. At the core of this expectation of politeness is the idea that the POC in question should teach the offender what was wrong with their statement. Because in my experience what is meant by “be polite” is “teach me”, teach me why you’re offended by this, teach me how to be racially sensitive and the bottom line is that it is no one’s responsibility to teach anyone else. And even when POC are as polite as possible there is still hostility read into the words because people are so afraid of being called racist that they would rather go on offending than deal with the hard road of confronting their own prejudices.

Jay Rosen on the Science Writers in New York Panel for Social Media (video)

The Perils of Predictions: Future of Physical Media

SciBling Walt Crawford indulges himself in some prognosticating about the (non)demise of various physical means of delivering information: music, films, magazine, newspapers and books. He takes a cautious, conservative tack there, for the most part. I am supposed to be the wide-eyed digi-evangelists around here, but I was nodding along and, surprising to me, agreeing with much of what he wrote.
But I’d like to follow-up on this with some additional caveats and thoughts of my own. You may have to read Walt’s post first for the context, as this will be a direct riff off of him.
Regarded as some kind of “visionary” I often get asked, including in media interviews, to give these kinds of predictions, i.e., will medium A be “dead” in X years. I try to weasel out of those questions, and for a good reason.
We tend to laugh at soothsayers who got all their predictions wrong: the Nostradamuses and similar fakes. But we should remember that many people, including numerous science fiction writers, made many correct predictions. Where they tend to get it wrong is in assigning the exact dates – and then we laugh at them for that instead of admiring their power of vision.
So, when I get asked those prediction questions, I tend to answer in a different form. For instance, I may try to articulate ‘order’ instead of ‘timing’ and say something like: phase A will be followed by phase B will be followed by phase C, etc. This eliminates the need to give any kinds of numbers – in years – as to when any of those phases will happen. I am, just like everyone else, notoriously bad at predicting the rates of change, but the order of changes (and the identity of those changes) is easier to get right.
If pressed further, I may say that phase A will happen ‘pretty soon’ (which is ambigious on purpose and can mean anything between 10 months and 10 years), phase B we’ll see within our lifetimes (again purposefully ambiguous – anywhere between 10 and 100 years) and phase C will happen in the far future (even more ambiguos – may mean anything between 25 years and a 1000 years). That’s about as much precision as I am willing to offer.
So, I think that Walt unnecessarily hampered himself by imposing a strict number on his predictions. It is going to be much easier to measure if he was right about timing and thus ignore if he was right about substance.
Also, Walt’s choice of 5 years is extremely short. It is very easy to say that ‘nothing much will change in 5 years’ because that statement is basically correct. Sure, five years is incredibly long when one thinks about technological innovation and the rate of technological change – those things happen much faster. But on the other hand, social change does not happen that fast. And Walt is not talking about new inventions that will emerge on the market and become popular, but about disappearance of existing technologies, which is the domain of societal change, not technological.
First consideration: when a new technology in the media comes into the market and becomes popular, it first sweeps the tech-savvy, highly educated folks in big cities in the developed world. If you live in Tokyo, Amsterdam, San Francisco or London, you will be surrounded by such people and will tend to think that “everyone is now using this technology”. This ignores billions of people in the rural areas of developed countries as well as entire developing/undeveloped countries. I have a nagging feeling that Walt will agree with me on this point.
Second consideration: emergence of new and vanishing of old technologies also depends on how well it tacks onto the existing infrastructure and if the country has that infrastructure. For example, cell phone technology does not tack onto the landline phone network. In developed countries, the landline phone companies will try to slow down the process in order to save the utility of the network they are operating, thus they will start operating cell phone business but in a very customer-unfriendly and expensive manner. On the other hand, in a developing country with no landline phone infrastructure, the country can completely leap over that technology and jump straight into building (if they have money) the cell-phone infrastructure with no hindrance from any government-connected corporations. Thus, the landline phone technology will “die” faster in a country in which it was never really strong (e.g., the entire continent of Africa) than in developed countries in which people are used to landlines (and want to keep doing what they always did) and there are business forces that try to slow down the change.
Before you all go off-topic dissecting the above example, the take-home point of the paragraph was this: adoption of new and disappearance of old technology is a) going to occur at different rates in different geographies and b) will be contingent on a lot of factors, including local politics, business, finances, culture and, yes, climate. Some technologies are better adapted than others to extreme heat, cold, humidity or dust. Also, how much electricity does your gizmo require? Can you use it with a hand-crank or a couple of hamsters in running-wheels or does it require a stable and reliable electrical grid?
Third consideration: people differ in regard to adopting new technologies. Some people hungrily go after every new shiny thing, some forever cling to the ways they always used to do things (it’s surprising how many professional journalists and professional scientists – people one expects to be the most novelty-seeking, adventurous and flexible – are in this group!), and most are somewhere in-between, waiting to see what new technologies become indispensable (not just fads) before starting to use them (heck, it took me years before I got my first cell phone).
Even if a new technology completely sweeps the market, there will always be traditionalists, collectors and fans of the old tech. I do not see LPs or ham-radios (or even slide-rules or moleskins) ever going away: too many people just love those things, collect them, trade them, organize conferences about them, write academic papers about them, etc. In other words, even if most of the population in a given geography switches to a new technology, that technology cannot be pronounced dead as long as there are fan-clubs still using it.
Fourth consideration: really a variation of the Third. Producers of the technology, in face of societal changes in the use of that technology, adapt to a new niche. Horse breeding is still a multi-billion dollar business. If anything, horses are better and more expensive than ever in history. But the use of that technology is completely different. Nobody in the developed world (yes, go visit an undeveloped country and go to the rural areas – watch horses, or oxen or mules, plough the fields) is using horses for day-to-day transportation or agricultural work. Horses are now used by a different set of users for sport and leisure. While the technology called horses-as-transportation is dead, the technology horses is not. The technology has changed its use – hobby, rather than a need. Producers of that technology adapt to the new market.
So, yes, I agree with Walt that music CDs are not going to disappear in 5 years (how about in 100 years?). Their market share will diminish and it may become more of a hobby, but they will be there (more in some places than others, of course).
I agree with Walt that DVDs will still be around in 5 years, though I think Blue-Ray will go the way of Betamax: essentially dead.
And while some news-magazines like TIME and Newsweek will likely die, glossy photo-magazines probably will not, at least not very soon (i.e., not in 5 years):

The future (or what little is left of it) of print journalism is photojournalism. Text is already all online (and so are the audio and video clips). Long after the newspapers stop printing news on cheap paper, the glossy magazines dependent on high quality photography will keep getting printed: bridal gowns, real estate, sport, fishing and hunting magazines will thrive for quite a bit longer – they are selling glamour that Kindle and laptops are still incapable of reproducing as well as the dead-tree technology can. For a little while longer…

Also, our favourite beach/pool/airplane magazines, like The NewYorker, Atlantic and Harpers (high-quality long-form writing, not quite pleasant to read on an iPhone or laptop yet), still have a long way to go before dying….
Scientific journals will not die, but many will entirely move online and quit printing a dead-tree version (which will allow for experimentation on the format of the scientific paper).
Books: the Kindle is soooooo much an early prototype of the technology, we have a long way to go before we have something that new generations will adopt as ‘their’ technology (not even to mention the business aspects) . Our collective love of physical books is too strong and an entire generational shift will have to happen before the books die. Not to mention how much time it will need to digitize all the books. But once the new technology matures, it will, of course, change the way we read books, in a MacLuhanesque way.
As for newspapers, I have written about it a lot, and stated that metros will die, but hyper-local and super-global newspapers will survive – at least longer than 5 years – but will mostly be online anyway (you can print your copy – there is a “Print” button on your browser).
Now, you take a stab at predictions!

Leave journalism to professionals!

Or better not. Is this the way Washington Post is trying to hasten its complete loss of respect and relevance? In the week they fired their only journalist worthy of that title?

Yuck!
[via @jayrosen_nyu]

Jay Rosen on journalism

Interview by Ulrike Reinhard:

Also, if you have not done so yet, it is worth your time to listen to Rebooting The News podcasts in which Jay Rosen and Dave Winer discuss the current transformation of the news media. They are longish – almost an hour long each – but worth your while. Good idea is to listen to them in chronological order, though they are getting better and better (i.e., better organized, clearer, more succinct) every week.

The Ethics of The Quote

Yesterday, I had an interesting discussion on Twitter with @jason_pontin (and a couple of others chimed in, e.g., @TomLevenson and @scootsmoon) about the role of quotes in journalism. Specifically, about the importance of providing a brief quote from sources interviewed for a piece. The difference in mindsets of Old vs. New journalism appeared in sharp relief.
I did not really think hard about this question until now, so this post is just my first provisional stream-of-thought about this and I welcome discussion in the comments.
So, let me try a mental experiment here. You are a journalist. You picked, or are assigned, a topic to write an article about. You may know nothing, little or a lot about the topic. Regardless, you start with a clean slate. What do you do?
First, you conceptualize your article in your mind: decide what the limits are, i.e., what can and what cannot be included due to space restrictions you are given by the editor. Thus, in your mind, you already have a bare skeleton of the story.
Then, you hit the Rolodex and start calling people who may something interesting to say on the topic. You consciously or subconsciously pick people who can provide you with a broad spectrum of opinion on the topic. You ask them for interviews. Many say Yes.
You conduct the interviews for about 30 minutes to an hour with each person. You record or jot down notes or save their e-mail responses.
Then you start writing your article, putting your skeletal version into words. When done with that phase, you start fleshing it out. How?
You have learned, from interviews or before, what the spectrum of opinions is out there. You want to include some or most of them into your article. How do you go about that?
First, you decide that Opinion A is so out of whack it is not worth mentioning. Second, you decide that Opinion B is out of whack, but can be used for comic relief to make your story fun.
Then you are left with a few remaining opinions which are, in your view, “legitimate”. Now you need to find the best quotes that represent those opinions. How do you find them?
You go through all your transcripts/notes/recording and look for them. And you find them – one best wording for each of the opinions. You include them in your article and correctly attribute them to the authors. Your work is done – send to the editor and move on to the next story.
What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong with this picture?
There are several layers of wrong. Let me try to dissect them, one at a time.
First wrong: you had the concept of the article in your head before you did the research. This shapes your research, choices of interviewees, choices of “opinions”, choices of quotes.
Second wrong: you picked to interview people with colorful views on the topic instead of people who have the relevant expertise to say something on the topic. Hence the appearance of Creationists, anti-vaccinationists, Global Warming Denialists or Republicans – people who are wrong every time they open their mouths – in the media.
Third wrong: you made decisions, out of your own gut instead of from deep research, which opinions are too wacky to include. How do you know they are wacky? Are you an expert? Are you sure they are just not outside the Overton Window, or outside the “legitimate sphere” as defined by the media itself?
Fourth wrong: you cherry-picked the quotes, looking for specific statements that illustrate the opinions you have decided to include. You are not interested, really, who they come from or if that person stands by it. You are just looking for who put it into words the best, the “best quote”. Journalists love language, but have a very post-modern relationship to facts. They think of themselves more as writers, with a skillful turn of the phrase, than as reporters who are stubbornly looking for the truth.
Even when asked, journalists openly state that their role is not to find the truth, but to register the spectrum of opinions out there. That is stenography at best (not even that, as some opinions are never registered, including some very valid opinions), not journalism.
But that is absolutely NOT what the audience expects. Audience is already aware of the spectrum of opinions out there. They look for you to tell them exactly which one of those opinions is correct, and which ones are bunk. But you never deliver. Which is why people are mad, and the press has an extremely low ranking in popular opinion on trustworthiness.
If you disagree with the above paragraph, think why that is so? Did you hear it from your editors and colleagues? If so, they are dead wrong. If you learned it in J-school, your professors were dead wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!!!
Now think again.
Is everything you ever learned in a professional setting about the role of journalism wrong? Could be. Time for deep introspection.
But let’s go back to the example and look at some other aspects of wrongness in it.
The method of quoting used is deeply unfair to the interviewees. They talked for an hour. You cherry-picked a quote that fits your own narrative, not theirs. They are misrepresented.
For example, I may start the interview by putting up the clearest possible wording of a statement that I deeply disagree with. I spend the rest of the hour explaining in great detail and nuance why that statement is wrong. But I worded it so well, it is just peachy for you to use it and put my name next to it as if I agreed with that statement. That is blatantly dishonest.
You got your pretty quote, but in the process you completely misrepresented my stand on the issue, perhaps 180 degrees from it (yes, this happened to me – not found in Google, in St.Peterburg Times, about Edwards’ concession to Kerry in 2004). In public. Forever associated with my name. I should be able to sue you for this!
Even when the quote is correct, e.g., I do agree with the statement, there is a reason why I talked for an hour: it takes an hour to explain it (this happened to me, too).
Perhaps that sentence was an aside, just a polite way to respond to one of the stupider of your questions, but the main thrust is elsewhere – but that never makes it into print (yes, this also happened to me).
That single sentence you chose is such an oversimplification of my view, that the commenters will rip me to shreds for being so dumb (yes, this also happened to me – the same St.Peterburg Times article). And you did it to me – I did my best trying to explain my position, but you were not listening to what I had to say, you were just hunting for pretty quotes that fit YOUR narrative.
And people know all this. Which is why so many people refuse to give interviews – they know for certain they will be misquoted (sure it’s verbatim, but plucked out of context it is meaningless).
Some people refuse interviews only when they are told they will not be able to check the quotes before publication. The journalists invoke some sacred rule about refusing to do this. I have no idea where the rule comes from, but it is stupid and wrong. It is preventing the person from avoiding slander.
It should be made a right, and written into law, and monitored by the Human Rights Watch, that an interviewee has to be able to see the article in advance, can change one’s own quote, and can remove one’s name and quote from the article if deemed necessary to protect one’s own reputation. I do not want my name associated with statements I do not 100% hold and support and I have a right to remove my name from them. If you interview me as an expert, that is your duty (this may differ if you are playing gotcha journalism with a politician, but that is a different kind of interview and a different kind of quote: extracting facts from an unwilling participant, not an expert who gave time to explain stuff to the public).
But refusing the interviewee this right is the way journalists wield power over the interviewees. And they relish that power. And will relinquish it only if it is taken out of their dead, cold hands. They reserve the right to misquote and thus slander everyone.
As there is no argument that can be correctly summarized with a single sentence to the satisfaction of the interviewed expert, does this mean that quoting someone should be never done?
No, there is a role for a quote – as a hook for the reader to click on the link and read (or listen to or watch) the entire transcript. It makes an interesting story that may pique the interest of a casual reader who will then follow the links to get more information, including, especially, the full treatment by the interviewed expert. Then the reader can see if the person was quoted correctly or not, and will understand that the quote is an oversimplification which the author does not really hold. No reputation is lost that way.
So, when you interview someone, pull out that audio recorder, or camera and record the whole thing. Then pay the transcribing services (or get an intern to do it, or, better still, don’t be lazy and do it yourself: unlike bloggers who have other jobs it is your full time job to do this, so do it). Or better still, conduct the interview by e-mail so all you have to do is copy and paste. Then make sure that every quote in your article links to the complete transcript/podcast/video of the entire interview. Everything less than that is deeply dishonest and no interviewee should ever agree to.
Finally, this way of collecting quotes is a disservice to the reader who is looking for facts and the truth, not the spectrum of well-known opinions. By wasting half the space on meaningless quotes, the journalist has no space left to make the Truth-statement for the readers: the very reason journalism exists. So, not just interviewees are screwed, but so is the audience.
The institution of the quote goes back to the era of printing on paper. There was very little (and expensive) real estate in the newspaper or magazine. The editor told you in advance how many inches you get for your story. Reducing 20 hour-long interviews into 20 single-sentence quotes is a way for you to prove to your editor and to readers that you did your job. To hell with substance or truth – you demonstrated that you put hours into the article and thus deserve your paycheck.
On the Web, real-estate is endless and cheap. Not linking out to complete documentation – including transcripts of all interviews – is deeply unethical in the 21st century journalism unhindered by the limitations of the dead-tree technology.
You can see the full transcript of our Twitter debate on this topic if you search Twitter for BoraZ + jason_pontin (you will have to scroll down and go to the second page to see it all) as well as a couple of side-discussions by searching BoraZ + scootsmoon and BoraZ + TomLevenson.
=================
Addendum.
Here are some articles for which I was interviewed and what I think of them (I skipped several because they are behind paywalls or not available any more), so we can see by example what works and what does not, and why:
This was the worst example. It does not even matter what I said and what was quoted – my name is in a piece that slanders everything I stand for, including my own book. But what does one expect from The New Scientist?
This one is the example where I talked for 65 minutes and all that was quoted was an unimportant aside. Was there really nothing else interesting in what I said? Including things I explained in detail, with passion, clearly indicating what is important? Or just not what the journo had in mind at the outset?
This was radio, so the quote is very brief, and I am OK with it.
This one (also carried by papers in Baltimore, Houston and Charleston SC) was really good – the journalist paid attention, learned, and used her own words to accurately portray what I said on top of a decent quote.
This one was also good, for the same reason.
Caroline McMillan did even better – published two articles side-by-side: one was a profile of me, the other about science blogging learned from interviewing me. Worked great together as a package.
John Dupuis, Klaus Taschwer, Simon Owens, Hsien Hsien Li, Brandon and Caryn Shechtman did the smart thing – posted entire interviews. If you are interested in me as a personality, or in my expertise, or in my opinion, just give me the mike. That’s the best solution for everyone.
Likewise on the radio – several times I was on for entire hour-long shows – see this, this and this for some recorded examples. My panels and lectures were sometimes recorded and posted online as well.
At this day and age, when this technology is easy and cheap – who needs quotes any more?
Update: This is an excellent example of an interview that includes several quotes PLUS provides the entire transcript.

#CNNFail #youtubefail #iranelection

Follow me on Twitter and you’ll see this stream (to see more than one-sided conversation, search me there as well and check if there are comments on FriendFeed):
RT @ljthornton Students: Roughly 2 hours of tweets from “student living in Tehran,” 22: http://bit.ly/wVpJl
#CNNFail: Twitterverse slams network’s Iran absence. http://tr.im/osmp (via @jayrosen_nyu)
@HowardKurtz Hours and hours of ….talking to the camera revealing no useful information?
@HowardKurtz perhaps CNN and its audience have very different ideas of what is reporting, what is useful information, what is coverage.
@jason_pontin If CNN International was reporting, and CNN USA was not – what despicable contempt for American audience!
Searched Twitter for BoraZ: http://tinyurl.com/6h75qq
Searched Twitter for CNN International: http://tinyurl.com/lvfkp2
@jason_pontin Obviously not: US audience is very angry right now. Also knowing how Amanpour lied in every sentence from Bosnia – don’t trust
@HowardKurtz why anyone cares about his endless rant? Is THAT reporting? Useless information: #CNNFail
@jason_pontin No data, but see Twitter anger, see blogs, talk to neighbors. Can you quantify – you have the tools I don’t.
@jason_pontin Unfortunately, Amanpour has good reputation in the USA because nobody here reported (that’s before WWW) she lied every day.
@jason_pontin They cannot ignore the most vocal and broad-reaching subset of the audience any more. It spreads from online -> offline: bad!
@jason_pontin There is a day off in the world of news?
@jason_pontin Oh, I see. I though it was something automated, online as well as part of the news organizations.
@jason_pontin don’t know that website, but the gist of that article is correct. She was not alone: Peter Jennings was worse and he was comfy
Silent for 17 hours: @tehranelection stream is something to check out and hope it comes back soon with more #iranelection news
RT @StevenZimm: Satellite jamming of BBC TV and radio feeds by Iran reported http://tr.im/osOF
Via @jason_pontin Learn about Amanpour http://bit.ly/KlBNu Do you trust her? I quit trusting her in early 1990s
1/3 When we demonstrated against Milosevic, we cheered CNN for being the only foreign media reporting from the scene
2/3 A couple of years later, CNN was deemed 4th party in the war with the likes of Amanpour triggering breaks of ceasefires & ruining talks
3/3 Since then, I do not trust CNN on anything. Always double-check with trusted bloggers.
@susana71 That was 1991. Oh, how things change! #CNNFail
Searched Twitter for #CNNFail: http://tinyurl.com/m774hp
RT everybody: Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter for News About Iran (Marshall Kirkpatrick/ReadWriteWeb) http://bit.ly/d2Etp #cnnfail
Searched Twitter for HowardKurtz : http://tinyurl.com/nb5jox
RT @ohkirsten RT @jdickerson: Angry calls from Iranian authorities to Twitter. Block function not working. http://tr.im/osWV #IranElection
RT @gladysCJ Blog with all the pictures and videos on #iranElection not shown on television or newspaper http://www.iran101.blogspot.com/
RT @Scobleizer This photo should win Pulitzer Prize. I never expected to see photos like this come out of Iran. Amazing: http://ff.im/3XNSW
Teheran on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mousavi1388/
Searched Twitter for #iranelection: http://tinyurl.com/lkoew3
Following @TehranBureau
Following @IranElection09
Following @cnnfail
Following @TCorp
RT @TCorp Twitter users launch unpresidented human DDoS attack bringing down at least 3 major Iranian hardliner websites. Go Twitter!
RT @TCorp Plz go2 http://bit.ly/9LWwq & http://bit.ly/4y3eM & http://bit.ly/mth1M then just leave them open. DDoS 4 Freedom
RT @TCorp Pictures of the riots going on in Tehran right NOW as NOT seen on CNN http://tanin.nl/qIDW #IranElections #CNNFail
RT @davewiner: Iranians on Twitter during the june clashes. http://tr.im/ot4X
RT @Scobleizer The day Twitter kicked CNN’s behind & @ev bought me a whisky http://ff.im/3XKbG
Video from Tehran: http://bit.ly/Fvbc9
RT @joshwolf: Iran’s latest assault on the press tells me the election was likely rigged. http://tinyurl.com/kkehbw
#iremember when CNN was there when Milosevic rolled tanks at us in 1991. Where is #CNNFail today? #iranelection
Iranian twitterers to follow: http://tr.im/ot4X
RT @manymanypeople Youtube now removing videos of protests and beatings in iran. #iranelection #youtubefail
RT @Ornette303: post videos on http://www.liveleak.com #iranelection #cnnfail #youtubefail
Following @smileofcrash
@MaverickNY This will have to be figured out over the next day or two or more. But images and videos are hard to fake this fast!
@MaverickNY which is why I do not RT statements, but link to potentially trustworthy sources and interesting responses to the phenomenon.
RT @Dereklowe To my followers – my Iranian wife and I will be updating translated reports on the Iranian unrest via Twitter
If Twitter goes down, my record remains: #CNNFail #youtubefail #iranelection http://tinyurl.com/ng6ry9
RT @MaverickNY RT @cdn @melissapierce: Amazing Iran real time aggregator http://iran.twazzup.com
RT @BayNewser mediabistro/BayNewser’s take on what went wrong with #CNNFail (lessons @ end) http://bit.ly/SCHxp
RT @mlshapiro: Oh dear. RT @owillis: #cnnfail illustrated. http://bit.ly/222oR2 (expand) Fox and MSNBC spanked as well.
I am already wearing green today: RT @irb123: RT @Robot117 PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD: WEAR GREEN TOMORROW #iranelection #cnnfail
Amir http://friendfeed.com/amirpix is taking pictures and videos in Tehran
RT @Robot117 GOOD BLOG from inside Iran http://tehranlive.org/ #iranelection #cnnFAIL
@BrianR under the rubric of “plausible” or “interesting” – verification will have to come later – the speed of news is of essence first.
2/2 @BrianR in order to force the MSM to start paying attention or face loss of face
@BrianR I am also mainly focusing on image/video and interesting aggregators, not individual pieces of unverifiable information, for now.
Following @iran09
RT @Katrinskaya”You Deserve To Die!”: According to a Tehranbureau report riot police now shooting http://tinyurl.com/mab6p8 (via @dailydish)
RT @dailydish A Time-Line Of The Coup: A fascinating account of the events by Muhammad Sahimi: http://tinyurl.com/kpxrtd
Rebooting The News: http://rebootnews.com/ http://friendfeed.com/clique-with-claque @rebootnews tonight, including #CNNFail #iranelection
RT @CityCountryMe wondering why #cnnfail but not #foxfail? Nobody believes Fox news is credible to begin with.
RT @StopTheDictator @donlemoncnn Excellent job selecting only pro-CNN tweets in your segment on #iranelection. #CNNFail #5 trend on twitter.
RT @PeggyHovsepian Victory: CNN responds to #cnnfail campaign http://bit.ly/15ROVX (via @huffingtonpost)
RT @PCZ RT @simoncolumbus: my list of english-language twitterers inside iran now sorted by cities: http://is.gd/11Z0q #iranelection
I thought CNN was rich enough to employ 3rd shift reporters: http://twitter.com/HowardKurtz/status/2168981940 need a nap? #CNNFail
RT @LanceMannion Informed Comment: Class v. Culture Wars in Iranian Elections: Rejecting Charges of North Tehran Fallacy http://shar.es/pAeY
RT @jasonblogz #cnnfail hashtag represents more than what it was created for. cnn is responding. it represents the influence of social media
RT @tinomen71 CNN making excuses about difficulty getting reliable info from Iran- info may be limited, but that doesn’t make it a non-story
@klustout Iran coverage by CNN International and NOT by CNN USA is a spit in the face of US viewers. We are not sheep. #CNNFail
RT @annajjohnson CNN fails because they think Twitter is a tool they can wield. They never expected it to “work” w/o them. #CNNfail
Following @persiankiwi
RT @GirlArchaeo @PhillyD Yes, many ARE internet sheep. But compare what @persiankiwi has to say vs. CNNs 12 hour old news! #CNNfail
RT @hermioneway Biggest Social Media Story yet? http://mashable.com/2009/06/14/cnnfail/ #cnnfail
@kevinsanders Learn about Amanpour http://bit.ly/KlBNu
RT @enzym RT @IranRiggedElect: HOW TO: Track Iran Election with Twitter and Social Media http://bit.ly/2BoqU #iranelection #cnnfail
RT @RisingHegemon @rosiered23 All news should be free! Gloat is wrong word, not happy about #cnnfail – media needs to address myopic probs
RT @palocortado CNN dropped the ball with #iranelection and now has a huge PR crisis on its hands #cnnfail
@schingler You can help – check out instructions by @TCorp
@alwayzThinking Oh, IMPT means ‘important’. At first read I thought you meant “impotent” LOL
RT @SunKimbra I’d go check out CNN to flesh out twitter news #cnnfail but last few times they just read tweets on air & called it news..
RT @newjorg @iocat Amanpour was invited to the election “win” conference But NBC ABC French TV cameras confiscated BBC kicked out. #CNNfail
RT @newjorg Reporters without Borders: don’t recognize this undemocratic election. http://bit.ly/24yxD #iranelection
RT @BluegrassPundit There is a revolution in Iran and CNN is doing a fluff interview with Axelrod about Obama’s Normady visit. #cnnfail
RT @SpaceyG Iranian students are posting pictures of their injured. Dead? http://entesabat88.persianb… #IranElection #cnnfail
“unlike Western journalists that later arrived on the scene, the locals were familiar with the context” http://tinyurl.com/djbb8w #CNNFail
RT @Ghattavi Many newspapers were blank today as there were nothing to say… and some people even bought them for support #iranelection
RT @Reachg: bring Irans online live TV website down from spreading propaganda http://tinyurl.com/m6o3bg #iranelection
RT @RawStory: Obama addresses Iranians in video. http://tinyurl.com/ns9xwm #iranelection http://bit.ly/UjrFJ
Most succinct compliment to my tweeting of #iranelection #CNNFail: http://bit.ly/RaMMF way fewer than 140chs
RT @smileofcrash #iranelection poor girl….:(( http://bit.ly/10MN4s
RT @drisis @JoshMPlant: Great new video about the #iranelection by @realjohngreen. http://bit.ly/D48w9 “Ahmadinejad is a douchenozzle”
RT @parinaz encounter with riot police http://bit.ly/Ncdoc #iranelection
RT @JenniferRose21: Another #iranelection resource: Global Voices has in country reports, photos, video: http://bit.ly/caMrN
RT @LTCiaccio Iranians: report to http://www.herdict.org/ which sites you cannot access – they aggregate info on blocked sites #iranelection
I hear that @huffingtonpost has the BEST live blog of happenings, video, 1st person accounts, photos from #iranelection http://is.gd/124ka
RT @Ali_Davis Mind-blowing to learn about #iranelection through intense personal accounts on Twitter. The oldest form of news, 1000X faster.
@HowardKurtz It took 48 hours of #CNNfail outrage for you to wake up and be a tad better than the competition?
RT @ValerioVeo: Just when you thought Twitter was a fad – along comes Iran. Follow #iranelection and watch a political uprising unfold …
Repeat for the evening crew – a good look at Twitter vs. CNN on #iranelection http://tinyurl.com/muw3fc
RT @krisaloma When will organizations (CNN) realize consumers aren’t comparing them to their competitors, but to consumers’ expectations?
RT @TAC_NISO Difficult to call networked communication a fad when conversations turn away from {food} & turns toward political uprising
RT @Theremina Iranian-American human rights lawyer friend “Twitter doing much better job of explaining everything than media.” #iranelection
RT @DruidSmith @jeremymeyers @persiankiwi #iranelection just talked to my friend in Tehran, she said people are chanting “Obama help us!”
RT @crawlspace The NYTimes has an article on CNN’s non-existent Iran coverage http://tinyurl.com/lu79mp #iranelection
RT @RattlePop Iranians turn digital smugglers in battle for information despite depleted phone & internet http://bit.ly/rwzTK #IranElection
do I have another green shirt for tomorrow or do I need to wash overnight the one I wore all day today?
Q1: How did Twitter force the MSM to start paying attention to #iranelection ?
Q2: How much did Twitter as a source get people to talk to offline friends about #iranelection and spread the news outside Twitterverse?
How Rick Springfield Led Me To The Plight Of Mousavi’s Iranian Supporters http://tinyurl.com/l8bssz by @AlBren #iranelection
RT @ChrisVanPatten We get an opportunity to experience the world through their eyes – something far more visceral than what CNN can offer
RT @gransome Twitterers keep tweeting. MSM has to play catch up sometime this week. They’ll be getting their updates from us. #iranelection
RT @ToasterSunshine I wouldn’t have known it was even happening without Twitter since I don’t watch TV. Twitter informed me to inform others
RT @robinc913 From Gawker: “Twitter was in midst of handing CNN its proverbial ass” http://tinyurl.com/kpcoan #iranelection #cnnfail
RT @CNNfaildotcom Visit http://CNNfail.com to read #CNNfail real-time tweets
RT @HowardKurtz My take on how Twitter power: http://tinyurl.com/no5ocq So why doesn’t CNN get it?
Collection of online sources on #iranelection on BBC: http://bit.ly/Rhp5M
RT @TEDchris MSM v Twitter debate: Richard Sambrook, voice of common sense at BBC http://is.gd/12uWv via @aknock
Kristof: Iran’s Crossroads http://bit.ly/FUBWH
RT @jayrosen_nyu: For a spectacular curmudgeon star turn by a pro journalist on the TV, scroll to DOYEL http://tr.im/ov9y Proudly ignorant.
RT @Katrinskaya #iranelection social media aggregation at http://netvibes.com/iranelection & mobile http://winksite.mobi/iran/election
RT @dorothycrenshaw What #CNNFail Protests Say About The Relationship B/t Old and New Media (per @poniewozik) http://snipr.com/k5qqr
Tweeting #iranelection (as a non-journo) avoid unverifiable facts, point to good links, media analysis, interesting people, Zeitgeist-tweets
“what establishment journalists typically call “reporting” is nothing of the sort.” Interview w/@glenngreenwald http://tr.im/oxLa
RT @Katrinskaya And one more time, because it’s great: Video from today: http://bit.ly/62y2g #iranelection
RT @persiankiwi: pictures of today – http://twitpic.com/7gtbu. #Iranelection
RT @zentronix So again the Tiananmen question: What if the Iranian people take democracy further than Mousavi or Karoubi would?
Iran election and international media update http://bit.ly/YsFL3
RT @jayrosen_nyu Coping w/ flood of data from Iran? @marcambinder Approach it as an analyst for CIA would http://bit.ly/7YWAf #iranelection
RT @rhibowman Twitter Calls Out CNN, But Kurtz Misses The Boat (Fishbowl) http://bit.ly/YTNg1
RT @xarker @GregMitch: Andrew Sullivan, once a skeptic, just begged Twitter not to go down tonite because it’s “so needed” on Iran crisis.
Social Networking Technology and the Documentation of History http://tinyurl.com/nfr6et by @drisis #scibling #CNNfail #iranelection

We report, you decide

He is the BBC’s latest star – the cab driver who a leading presenter believed was a world expert on the internet music business.
The man stepped unwittingly into the national spotlight when he was interviewed by mistake on the corporation’s News 24 channel.
With the seconds ticking down to a studio discussion about a court case involving Apple Computer and The Beatles’ record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the man, thinking he was Guy Kewney, editor of Newswireless.net, a specialist internet publication.
Actually, he was a minicab driver who had been waiting to drive Mr Kewney home.
Despite knowing nothing about the case – a judge ruled that the computer company could continue to use the Apple symbol for its iTunes download service – the man gamely attempted to bluff his way through and, speaking in a strong French accent, sustained a (somewhat illogical) form of conversation. Meanwhile, the real Mr Kewney watched indignantly on a monitor in reception.


BBC, just like Bentham publishers, easy to fool.
Follow up here. And there is a
Wikipedia page about the whole incident.

Ethic of the Link