Journotraveler, I don't think of journalists as cynical manipulators And I think you have every right to feel frustrated by blanket statements to that effect. At the same time, I do see serious problems with the way non-academic media present research. But, although I recognize those problems, I don't think that journalists are hacks. It's like how I think there are serious problems with the way the doctor-patient relationship is constructed, but I don't distrust doctors.

ETA: Jennifer Kahn, the author of the article in question, has a degree in astrophysics.
Originally Posted by journotraveler
Well, I don't have any particular quarrel with the article from the OP. But a degree in astrophysics doesn't qualify her to interpret research related to psychology. I have degrees too, and they don't mean that I'm qualified to interpret astrophysics research. See, that's one of the problems I'm talking about. A person really needs to have expertise in a field in order to properly evaluate the research that comes out of it. Sure, I can read through an astrophysics journal, and look up all the unfamiliar math and definitions. But I still won't really understand what I've read. I won't understand what the results actually are, I won't understand what they mean for the field, and I won't be able to evaluate their legitimacy or the way the study was designed.
Originally Posted by Eilonwy
I hear you.

My point was, though, that most science writers gravitate toward that beat because they already have an interest in that field--they've studied it, etc. They often do fellowships in science writing, etc. Just as a number of journalists who cover legal affairs are also lawyers.

But ultimately, they're journalists. Their job is to interview other people--the ones who are the experts--do reporting/research and then distill what is often complex, wonky material into a narrative that is easily digestible, relevant and informative for the lay person. (And any journalist worth his/her salt will go back to the experts and fact check with them.)

That's a skill, too. Personally, I wouldn't want to read a science article by a scientist who isn't also a trained writer/journalist.
3B corkscrews with scatterings of 3A & 3C.

Last edited by journotraveler; 05-15-2012 at 10:29 AM.