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An idle thought on career diversification. Answered

As you may know, I teach Science.

You may have noticed that I occasionally venture an opinion on science-related topics.

You may also have noticed that bad science, and the acceptance of anti-science tend to get on my nerves.

Part of the problem, of course, is the meeja - the majority of journalists have little or no science training, so they focus on the dramatic sound-bites when reporting stuff. Heck, these days the majority of journalists aren't even journalists - they're bloggers.

After the massive fuss I had to put up with at school over the LHC (destroying the world by sucking it into an exploding black hole then turning time backwards), I tried to find out where the kids got their panicky ideas from, and it turned out to be the tabloid press (the Star and the Sun, for UK readers).

Now, I could wait until the papers publish their bad headlines and write an annoyed letter, or I could be pro-active.

Do any of you guys think there is any mileage in setting myself up as a consulting service to the scientifically-illiterate news media?

I thought, maybe, offering "expert opinions" on scientific events to newspapers that don't have scientists on staff, or maybe a translation service, turning scientific papers and press-releases into something journalists can cope with.



I have emailed the main local newspapers, plus the BBC.

Let's see...


Original post edited.

Woah... the world could really use a guy like that. i too, find it annoying when people say stuff like that...

Part of the problem, of course, is the meeja - the majority of journalists have little or no science training, so they focus on the dramatic sound-bites when reporting stuff. Heck, these days the majority of journalists aren't even journalists - they're bloggers.

I agree there. Some of the stuff I read or hear on the "News" that is supposed to be reported as fact and you wonder where their head was at when they participated in the interview (I have an opinion on that, but will keep that to myself).

One place to start might be at: the Peter Shankman site where being a member, you get to "inform" the reporters of things they are interested in (from specific requests). The Help a reporter site enrolls you in receiving emails about 3 times a day from Peter however listing the info needed.

I used to be registered there (I started a thread about it here!), but the emails stopped. I don't know why, they just stopped. Maybe I'm not expert enough?

Hmm, I haven't ever replied to one, but I still get the emails (and I remember now that you posted about that originally, as I applied that day). I don't know. They claim to only drop a person that spams thier reporters.... *shrug*

Oh I wasn't accusing you of having sent ads or anything to their listed reporters....I just find it strange...maybe they are prejudiced against those outside the USA?

I get the feeling that many associated with the media are actor and actress wannabes, and didn't pay much attention even in high school science class... :-)

We're all a bit bitter, aren't we? While I also have doubts about whether the media cares enough to report the real stuff, or whether people would actually listen... I think you should go for it! It wouldn't hurt to try. Though I have to admit I've heard hardly anything about the LHC where I live. No one seems to know it even happened or what it is. I've been hearing about it on NPR for months but I don't think the local media really caught on.

Not bitter, annoyed at poor reporting. Another example today - a member of the Royal Society was reported as saying that Creationism should be taught in Science lessons, when what he actually said was that Science teachers should be prepared to discuss Creationism with students who raise it, and explain that Creationism has no basis in Science.

Actually, nothing that might have been "dangerous" HAS happened yet. They've just started it up, but the experiments involving colliding beams that are supposed to recreate big-bang conditions won't happen for some time...

Sorry kiteman, people dont buy papers to read about how the LHC isnt going to do any harm. Truth is, they will publish what ever sells the paper regardless of what you say, and if you say something no doubt they will turn it on its head to make it sell papers - and do you really want your name putting to any half truth twists they come up with?

I wasn't planning on my name being on it, really a more anonymous experts say role.

. I really like the idea of translating the more academic/technical stuff into Everyman-ese. I would think that just about any reporter would appreciate the help. Probably be better off, at least in the beginning, sending "random" translations to a few reporters that agree to receive them.
. I don't know your credentials, but I will guess that a news organization would find someone with some initials after their name to be more desirable. Dr. Kiteman, PhD, is much more sensational (which apparently equates to newsworthy nowadays <sigh>) than Mr. Kiteman, GED. Not that MKGED is out of the running; he'll just have to try harder when establishing his credibility.
. You'll never know 'til ya try. ;) Ring up some of the local news agencies and see how they feel about it.

I'm a BSc, PGCE (I couldn't afford to stay on long enough to do an MSc or PhD, plus I spent a year drunk, so my BSc was only a pass...)

You want hear something depressing about the LHC. A girl in india commit suicide because she thought she was going to die. You can read more here. I like your idea kiteman. The only problem I can see is that many newspapers probably don't even care what they report.

I like that idea, though I did enjoy people talking about the LHC, more so because I was in a twisted mood at the peak of it all and was enjoying pushing them freaking out, I realized the press had went too far when I got a call from someone who isn't fond of speaking to me, she wanted to tell me that she was sorry and it did lay things to rest on that score, making two lives easier.

There's a lot of potential in that idea, I'd say talk to the Beeb since you've got ties with them anyway, they're not big offenders but they'd be able to put you in touch with the right people, maybe speak to a local paper about a column or speak to a bunch of columnists, one thing that you'd need to be good at is having a simple analogy or line that describes the process, take suck, squeeze, spark, bang, blow as an example (it's about engines, not dirty.)

The other thing you could do is see about doing column in a paper, probably local to get things started, call it bad science, it could also be a way to promote home projects like your be a scientist set of 'ibles.


9 years ago

If the press were interested in accurate scientific reporting, they could do a lot better than they do now with very little effort. They don't care. My experience with the press is pretty bad; they'll take what you say, twist it to support whatever they want, and make you look like an idiot. Sometimes on purpose, often just accidentally.

Have you seen the Caveman Chemistry site and book? Sounds like you'd have a lot of common ground (more obvious from reading the book vs the site itself; a fair amount of complaining about the difficulties/image of chronic vs acute toxicity, and the mixing of compound vs elemental properties (WRT mercury, for instance.)