The Role of a Science Journalist in the 21st Century
“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Science in the 21st century is everywhere. Ever since the birth of the Internet and the rise of the overwhelming power that mass media possesses nowadays, science and its corresponding articles have been released at an exponential rate to sustain the exponential increase of interest across modern society. Whether that is via the Internet, newspaper or TV, information regarding scientific advances and research is easily attainable by the public nowadays and the ideas that are worth spreading, can be spread. Nevertheless, this consequently raises the question: what is the role of a science journalist in the 21st century?
In Britain, science journalism can be traced back historically to the 19th century and to a man named James Gerald Crowther, who significantly changed the way in which science is conceived within the media. In 1928, an article by Crowther titled ‘The public should be helped to realize the greatness of science, and its significance for society and the mind’ was released into the Manchester Guardian and spread an essence of scientific sanguinity across the public. This subsequently paved the way for science to become an essential aspect of human life, through the media.
Since that time, science journalism has become ever more important to modernised human life and, as such, it must understand the broad social consequences that it can stimulate when informing society. Therefore, it is the job of the science journalist to produce work that not only takes the precision and detail of scientific research and turn it into something personal and relevant to the reader, but also to create a story out of the years of hard work carried out by the researcher themselves, in order to give them the credit that they deserve. These researchers understand as well as anybody the power of the press, and how important they can be to their careers, their research and to the society. Likewise, if a scientific journalist were to create a story related to their research but is unable to write in an entirely accurate way, this could fabricate an unclear representation for which the research actually signifies, and accordingly send the wrong message out amongst readers. This therefore highlights the importance for scientific journalism to be entirely factual, whilst maintaining a degree of media-friendly propensity across the general public.
Science journalism is no longer about regurgitating physics, chemistry and biology. Instead, the audience of the 21st century wants to read about science that is personal and relevant to them, whether related to the latest cure for cancer or just a general update on dietary recommendations. It is therefore the role of science journalists within this modern era to ensure that the current ongoing research is represented in an accurate manner. Correspondingly, in order to achieve this, they must also occupy an excellent degree of scientific knowledge to their name. After all, would you ever find a doctor who didn’t understand medicine?
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