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MIT Science Tracker On Coverage of the Pew Science Survey

Over at MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Tracker, the wise Charlie Petit has a great round-up of coverage of yesterday’s Pew science survey. On what I described earlier today as a troubling “fall from grace” narrative in some reporting and commentary, Petit points to the obvious difficulties science reporters might have in covering an issue they deeply care about:

One notes that bylines [in coverge] tend to belong to science writers. Science writers can hope to cover science itself with a semblance of objective dispassion. But they have an inbuilt conflict of interest when the topic is the standing and penetration of science as a way to reach conclusions. Imagine the difference in coverage were a survey showing that the public thinks Shakespeare plays are outdated stuffy nonsense were reported by theatre critics, or alternately by hockey writers or stock analysts. One wonders – would the stories on this survey be much different if handed over to the closest science-phobic, ex-English-major political or general assignment reporter?

Which goes to suggest that a great follow up and parallel to this latest Pew survey would be to do a survey of journalists on their perceptions of science and its relationship to society. You might as well throw in Congressional staffers too. Sounds like a worthy grant proposal. 😉


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