Exciting news! I’ve been invited to talk about science blogging at the RiAus on the 18th of Jan for the next Australian Science Communicators meeting. If you’d like to come and meet me (and you live in South Australia) you can register here.
It comes at a great time, with Science Online 2010 starting very soon a lot of people are pondering the role of science blogs. What I’ve been thinking about lately is which is better, science in newspapers or science blogging?
The point of communication is to speak to an audience in a way they understand. Blogs are free and accessible to anyone who has money for an internet connection. With all the science blogs out there, you WILL be able to find one that writes at your level, about your interests, and in a way you enjoy. Compare that to newspapers, which need to write in a way the majority will be able to understand and will be interested in reading. The benefit is it brings science to the attention of people who don’t usually care, where blogs preach to the choir.
Science is obsessed with accuracy and proof, it’s a bit of a trademark. Giving a story the badge of SCIENCE can be used for evil, and in trying to catch and keep the attention of the masses newspapers can sexify and simplify a story to the point of complete and utter inaccuracy. Take this heading from the Telegraph that “Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists” which was ripped to shreds by Bad Science and later deleted. One example of many. Lies make science seem untrustworthy, and because science is often tied to fear-inducing stories about disease and global warming, I have to wonder if people make the connection that science is scary.
Blogs can be inaccurate too, they can jump on the same bandwagons or be lazy in their research, but they have two things in their favour – links and comments. An independent blog can (and should) link back to where got the story from. If they get something wrong, people can post a comment, and the correction will be RIGHT THERE ON THE STORY. If a newspaper posts a correction, it’s usually in a tiny paragraph somewhere in the middle a couple of weeks later.
Newspaper or Blog?
Hell, I’d hate to leave you guys like with a freaking “everybody wins” conclusion. Honestly, who wants to read that? As a blogger my opinion is obviously biased towards blogging, and I try damn hard to write science stories that are accurate, sexy and accessible. If you find a story that isn’t one of those things, comment on it so I can clean up my act. I think a good science journalist is someone who does these things whether they write for newspapers, magazines or blogs. The crap ones really stand out.
I’ll be putting my rambling unshackled thoughts together over the next week, so I’d love to know your thoughts. What do you like reading? What do you think works best? And, most importantly, should I be in my pirate attire for the evening?