So that’s what makes me special …

In a world of science bloggers, science tweeters, scientists who chat to the public about their work, science communicators and science educators, is there still such thing as a ‘science journalist’, discernably different from the rest of them? 

Does a journalist have to practice science to be a science journalist? Credit: Flickr/IITA Image Library

These days scientists are communicating their own thoughts, findings and observations on matters of interest to them through blogs, and in some cases even writing commissioned pieces for the media.

Science communication has evolved over time, Ed Yong, who blogs on Not Exactly Rocket Science, and Moheb Costandi, scientist turned communicator who runs the Neurophilosophy blog, told a session. The event aimed to identify who, exactly, is a science journalist, but some of the hybrids on the panel found it frustrating to seek an academic definition.

Views vary widely. Homayoun Kheyri, a freelancer with the BBC World Service, even felt that a proper definition of a science journalist would be a journalist who practices science, whether in field or in a lab, before breaking it down to the public. Kheyri insisted that a journalist fitting the description would spend some time in a week doing actual science.

But Cristine Russell, of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, Harvard Belfer Center in the United States, came to the rescue of science journalists’ self esteem, saying that a science journalist will always be distinguished from a science blogger or communicator/writer because of the ethical, independent, accurate and well broken-down information he or she gives to the public.

While the modern Internet age had almost blurred the distinction between the blogger, communicator and writer, a science journalist, through an independent approach to news, plays his or her watchdog role, giving out balanced and fair information to the public.

“A science  journalist will stick to professional ethics, verify his information for accuracy, go out to the field to interrogate policy in pursuit of transparency and without bearing any hidden interests but solely for the public good,” Russell said.

So that’s what makes me special …

Maina Waruru, SciDev.Net contributor in Kenya


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