Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Science Journalism: Magazine vs. Online Series

The 2009 AAAS Science Journalism Award Recipients in the magazine and online categories approach the concept “explaining science to the public” in divergent ways.

Gary Wolf’s magazine article, “A Simple Plan to ID Every Creature on Earth” manages to keep a nice balance between the science and the overall story. He explains the science involved using specific details and easy-to-understand explanations. The cold hard science about placing a barcode on species by analyzing the CO1 Mitochondrial gene is tempered by descriptions that inspire the different senses. This results in a story that is both engaging and highly informational.

Contrarily, the online series by Lisa Friedman concerning the displacement of people in Bangladesh due to climate change and global warming, begs the question, “where is the science?” It takes a very humanistic approach to a topic that has inundated the news of late and it presents the consequences of human actions. To that effect, it is a well-written human interest story. Because it does not explain anything scientifically, though, it really shouldn‘t have won an award for scientific journalism. Instead it is a nice story of how humans are suffering because of a scientific phenomenon.

The two winners both use pictures to enhance the pieces. The online series takes it a step further with a short video clip. This video clip tugs on the heartstrings but it does not explain any science and does not add much to the overall. Both stories are well-written, had clarity, and flowed from beginning to end. However, where the former is scientifically dense, the later is watered down and contains almost no scientific basis or fact.

1 comment:

  1. Does a science story need to explain the mechanics of science for it to be important?

    Or, is it enough to help the public understand the effects and impact of a scientific issue?