Fmr. Pres. science adviser: Embrace the Web

Posted: May 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: | View Comments

Original photo courtesy hyku

I got the opportunity about a month or so ago to talk with Dr. Neal Lane ahead of his speech at N.C. State about the future of science in America. A molecular physicist who served as National Science Foundation director in 1993 and as President Bill Clinton’s science adviser in 1998, he had some really unique insight about the history of science and the challenges scientists will face going forward.

One of those challenges, as he made abundantly clear, was communicating with the public.

An edited version of the Q&A was published in The Charlotte Observer, but I thought it would be worthwhile to post a more complete portion of the conversation I found most interesting: that scientists must embrace the Web to help translate science to the public. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Garbage Girl’ talks and media’s future

Posted: January 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | View Comments

Some news stories are just plain expensive.

That’s the case for in-depth investigations that require tons of sources and extensive research, and it’s true for long-term stories that require reporters to dig in for weeks or months to get the big picture. But it certainly holds true for sending journalists out to the middle of the ocean.

But that didn’t stop Lindsey Hoshaw from trying.

A freelance journalist specializing in environmental reporting, Hoshaw harbors a deep interest in trash — and in 2008, her eye was on the swirling vortex of it floating in the middle of the Pacific. Read the rest of this entry »

God, Satan and balance in science journalism

Posted: January 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

Image courtesy of ad-vantage

One of my favorite professors in college used to scoff openly about the idea of balance when reporting the news.

Dick Reavis, an indomitable Texan who logged time reporting on wars in Mexico and the siege of Waco, had a gift for weaponizing language. He brandished it deftly to drive his points home.

“Would you give God and the devil equal time?” he’d ask, pacing at front of the classroom.

I remembered that quote last week when I read about anti-vaccine advocate and Playboy playmate Jenny McCarthy’s appearance on ABC News. She was there to balance a story on a Pediatrics report on autism and special diets.

Now I didn’t watch the ABC News report and I didn’t read the paper in Pediatrics. And I am certainly not implying that McCarthy is the devil.

But the ABC News report and the discussion that followed made me think hard about the fundamental questions facing good science journalists.

How do you treat the minority viewpoint, given overwhelming scientific consensus? Read the rest of this entry »

Lost Links Vol. I: Check your math

Posted: August 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Lost Links | Tags: , , , | View Comments

A lot of the blogs I scan in Google Reader are great resources for journalists looking for tutorials, tips and tools to produce better work. I often use delicious to tag links and save them for later. But the problem is, a lot of times I just forget what I’ve saved altogether.

In an effort to rediscover some of the valuable resources stowed away in my arduous bookmark list, I’m going to feature a few of them each week in a series I’m calling Lost Links, a title that demonstrates the shameful extent of my creativity.

Maybe I’ll rediscover a link on how to better name a blog series …


Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.

– Bertrand Russell, 1901

Reporters hate math. That’s the stereotype afforded, rightly or wrongly, to the typically liberal arts-educated newsman/woman. It probably doesn’t help that people generally wear their inability to perform math as a badge of courage. Here are a few links to help you check your calculations — or put those numbers into context. Read the rest of this entry »