I'm sure that everyone who is in some branch of science has had a few frustrating brushes with the media. Scientific issues are often covered in an extremly poor fashion and I believe that there are a number of reasons for this.

Reporters assigned to cover scientific topics are often notoriously scientifically illiterate. However, this is not all that bad -what is worse is that they take distinct pride in knowing nothing about science. Thus the attitude of the reporter when he reports a scientific matter is this :Look I'm a normal person- you bunch of crazy guys have done something which I understand may be important. The people I'm writing for are normal people and they also agree that you are crazy. Now give me a few crisp interesting statements which I may use for my story.
An example of this sort of thing occured when Lijun Wang and his associates at NEC Research Institute conducted this negative group velocity of light experiment. What they actually demonstrated was anamolous dispersion resulting in a group velocity of -c/310, the headlines in the newspapers the next day said "300 times faster than light!. The reporter went on to mention how these people had submitted their paper to Nature(that divine journal so out of the reach of normal people) , and signed off with a few crisp quotes from various physicists(who had no idea what the experiment actually was) like "this revolutionary experiment will have an important bearing on the future of science". The worst part is that the correct news never appeared in newspapers even after the paper was published. Maybe this was because an article which talked about group velocity would be hardly as sensational (who cares about truth, sensation is what is important).

There is a vicious cycle involved here for when the reporter reports a scientist's statement as though it had divine sanctity, it promotes this wrong view of science among people. The next set of reporters come from these very people and thus grow up with this view which they cannot shed.

I believe this is a very serious problem which has not really got the attention it deserves. Science is an important part of our culture today, and it is inexcusable to take pride in scientific illiteracy.

As a part-time journalist, I would have to say that I agree somewhat to this. However, I also end up in the reverse situation. Where a person from the physics dept. has the 'I have done this for 20 years so I don't have to explain anything to you, creep, because I don't want to and I don't care to correct you because it's easier to deny than correct a statement'.

It's a problem, really. Journalists that don't ask enough, and scientists that don't explain enough. Also, it's a problem where a seemingly credible scientist 'proves' a new theory for a clueless journalist, and the theory is pure shit. Like 'earth radiation', (Notice that it doesn't say what kind of radiation) a fad among some German scientists which they couldn't prove. A lot of journalists fell for this one because no other scientists protested. They just chose to ignore it, because it was not at their level.

Most journalists I know really strive to get things right, and take it very personally if there's an error in their work. The worst example I've seen, is an article a friend wrote. He sent the article to the professor he interviewed for approval and error correction and got an OK on the article. Of course, the article contained several horrible errors and the professor went to the competing newspaper and complained about the journalist. The professor never read the article, but approved it anyway...

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