Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Small Newspaper VS. Long-Form TV Show

In the AAAS awards given for outstanding science journalism in 2009, the small newspaper article written by Amie Thompson about a specific deadly genetic disease definitely fits the merit. In this article, Thompson develops the story around a specific family plagued with Pallido-Ponto-Nigral-Degeneration (PPND), a degenerative genetic disease occurring in middle aged people. The most horrible aspect of the disease is that the patient’s body increasingly loses functionality and has only about eight years to live after the onset. The story successfully connects with the reader’s emotions, but the extent of science information is minimal.

For the long-form TV show pick of the 2009 AAAS awards, recognition was given to the in-depth TV report by Doug Hamilton about the extinction of large land mammals about 12,900 years ago. This show focused on the current state of knowledge on the subject and about the developing new theories as to how the extinction occurred. The show walks the viewer through every detail in the discovery and is filled with computer animations and prominent scientist interviews to bolster the claims of the new theory.

In examining the small newspaper article, the author had much less time to develop a story and “connect” or “tug” emotionally at the reader than in the in-depth TV report. The newspaper article could not rely on visual pictures or music to capture the audience, but rather had to articulately use words to walk the reader through the story. In the case of the newspaper article, I felt as if the science was sparse throughout, but I definitely felt more of an emotional connection with the article than I did with the TV show. With the TV show, the producer did a good job of tying all threads together at the end, but I felt as if a lot of the information was repeated to a fault. I felt as if the TV show entertained nicely, but did not go as deep into the science as I would have liked. Lastly, the TV show was able to visually convey emotion and establish a connection with the audience quite easily, while the newspaper article was forced to develop and build up to the emotional connection through articulate writing.

Lasting impression: each specific media-form utilizes different techniques to explain the science, and inherently each will include science to varying degrees of difficulty.

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