The Science Ghetto

Dan Vergano makes a very good point about the ‘ghettoization’ of science (boldface mine):

Where is the science writer on the editorial pages at the the top 10 newspapers? Where is the science writer offering a perspective on the political debate of the day on network or cable news? Where is the science writer sitting at the editor in chief’s desk at Time, or The New Yorker, or The Atlantic? Why is David Brooks explaining social science or neuroscience to readers? The people picked to run these outlets and become their big voices are not from specialty beats like science writing, they are political, finance, investigative team and foreign affairs journalists generally, and I would argue that this is an indication of our trade’s ghettoization (and perhaps a reflection of the curious status of science in our society in general, a kind of oracular expertise on tap to be turned off when it becomes inconvenient).

As political issues not only become more science-focused (e.g., global warming), but political stories become more quantitative and analysis-driven, having more science writers and scientists who are comfortable with science, the scientific method, and quantitative analysis is critical. Too often politics–and much more importantly, policy–is covered in a narrative form. We need people who are able to understand data and its analysis, and then write compellingly about it. To me, the continuing misunderstanding of the state of U.S. education comes to mind. Most public commentators and reporters routinely cover topics outside their areas of education, so why shouldn’t science writers?

Put another way, no science writer, even on non-science topics, could possibly be dumber than David Brooks or Thomas Friedman.

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