Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Comparing Lisa Friedman's online science journalism to Julia Cort's educational science television

Comparing a fun video about scientists who grow diamonds, complete with Indiana Jones references and goofy cartoons, to hard journalism about the effects of climate change on Bangladesh makes for some pretty stark contrasts. One is compelling because of its topic's Mr. Wizardesque appeal. The other demands attention with gravity rather than levity...

Consider both in terms of Cornelia Dean's measurements of "newsworthiness."

Extent: Climate Change, yes. Growing Diamonds, no.
Intensity: Neither, really. I'm used to people in Bangladesh doing worse than I am, and I'm not buying a diamond--grown or otherwise--anytime soon.
Consequence: Climate Change, yes. Growing Diamonds, no.
Celebrity: Climate Change, no. Growing Diamonds, yes--Neil DeGrasse Tyson is, to quote a colleague, "a scientist rock-star."
Proximity: nope and nope
Timeliness: Climate Change, ALWAYS. Diamonds? Timeless, maybe, but not particularly timely.
Novelty: Climate Change, good lord no. But Friedman's idea of going in-depth to observe direct and measurable effects of climate change is quite novel. Her approach is much of the story's success, I think.
Diamonds, obviously extremely novel. This is where Cort capitalizes.
Human interest: Friedman focuses here, and lets her subjects speak in their own voices. Photos add credence to the narrative. We see economic forces at the micro level.
Diamonds--A trip to New York's Diamond District puts human interest where there might've been none. We get to watch a veteran diamond appraiser react to a "grown" diamond. His disdainful joking about the idea of "grown" diamonds devaluing natural ones make us wonder if there is anxiety underneath. And his perspective begs the question: what do we value?
Currency: both are a yes

Interesting. These pieces of science communication are ostensibly opposites (with one making use of novelty and the other on consequence), except for the fact that both capitalize on human interest.

No comments:

Post a Comment