Many different groups of people talk about science in the public sphere.
In Australia, two of the most visible of these groups are science journalists and science communicators.
If we could profile the typical science journalist, what would he/she be like? What would be the necessary characteristics to have such a career? (For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to focus on print journalism just to simplify things a little).
→ The capacity to present science with knowledge, understanding and objectivity.
→ The capacity to question your material and your sources, seek alternative opinions and explanations.
→ The ability to pitch your material at a level to suit your audience, whether readers of a general newspaper or a specialist publication. In general, newsworthiness and novelty factor are key.
→ The ability to create a great story: a piece which is written well entices the reader forward, makes them want to read more even if the subject matter is complex.
→ The skill to write a piece which even though it may have science at its heart, does not place selling of science as a concept at the core of the article. For the reader, it does not necessarily matter whether the item is about science or not: if it’s a good story, it will be read regardless.
Of course science journalists are people, and don’t always deliver on all these fronts. But the best frequently do.
[image thanks to spunkinator on flickr]