Where Science Journalism Thrives

By Keith Kloor | January 10, 2011 2:49 pm

Bryan Walsh at Time beat me to the punch. I’ll get back to that in a sec.

Originally my post was going to lead off with a comment from Orville Schell in the early 2000s, when he was dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California,  in Berkley and the downsizing of newsrooms was starting to make news. Schell had said:

Journalism schools have the challenge to be almost newsrooms in a way, to make their courses””particularly graduate schools””places that do journalism”¦

I remember reading that at the time and nodding my head in assent. Since then, many J-schools have gone this route to some degree. And science journalism, in particular, is benefiting. Which brings me to this climate change story in the Kansas City Star, which Walsh mentions here, as part of a larger multi-media project

from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism that explores: climate change and national security. Called “Global Warning”  the website is the product of three months of investigations by student reporters at one of the best journalism schools in the U.S., with stories exploring the climate risks to energy infrastructure, the spread of disease in a warmer world, military clashes in a melting Arctic. Some of the pieces will also appear in the Washington Post and in McClatchy newspaper, but all of them will be found online on a website that includes sophisticated graphics, climate change timelines and even a global warming strategy game.

So J-schools have heeded Schell’s clarion call. Another good example related to science journalism is NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP), run by Dan Fagin, a former science reporter for Newsday. I mention SHERP because it houses the excellent  Scienceline site. One of its grad student articles was recently picked up by Scientific American.

I’m not suggesting that J-schools should or can replace a diminished corp of professional science writers. But there’s a valuable place for student work in the rapidly changing journalism ecosystem.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: science journalism
MORE ABOUT: science journalism
  • Huge Difference

    I had great hopes for the ASU Cronkite School (note the name, get it?) and their website, http://cronkitenewsonline.com/

    But I’ve followed them for months now, and communicated with their dean, and they really don’t want to compete with anyone, they just want to have a nice place on the web for them to pretend to do journalism while they buff up their resume.

    How can you tell?

    Yeah, just try to add any sort of comment to any of their stories.

    It’s 2011, the new J School newsrooms should be experimenting and learning about the best way to create dialog between journalist and readers, and not acting all afraid of the nasty commentariat.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    No argument that the new J-schools should be experimenting and many of them are. Here’s another great NYU reporting vehicle, called Pavement Pieces and in the Fall a bunch of students and professors went to the Arizona/Mexico border and produced a slew of great articles and videos.

  • David44

    “University of Berkley”?  Orville has signed on with an online diploma mill?  Tsk, tsk.

  • http://climatesecurity.blogspot.com/ Andrew

    keith –
    I was interviewed by a couple of these reporters a few months ago, and I was struck by how competent they were.
    They clearly are well-resourced, as you can see from the bylines (arctic circle, Bangladesh, Andes), and they did a good job bringing together what can be a complicated story into a readable, simple formula.
    However – what does it say that the only way you can get good reporting like this is by having it funded (no doubt by a charitable foundation), not by a for-profit newspaper.  And – will these students be able to continue doing this work when they get into the real world? Doubtful, I’d say.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor


    All sorts of enterprise reporting is funded by foundation or non-profit sources. On the national level think of Pro Publica. On a regional level, think of High Country News.

    It’s increasingly part of the new economic/journalistic ecosystem and will remain so until a sustainable economic model for the digital age is discovered.

    And I’m guessing the work will be built on by future students.


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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