We are pleased to announce that a recent co-authored article we wrote has been chosen to appear in The Best American Science Writing 2010, edited by the New Yorker‘s Jerome Groopman and Jesse Cohen. Our piece, entitled Unpopular Science, originally ran in The Nation last July. It was our documentation of the death of science journalism, and the failure of science on the web to fill the gap, and we are honored to have it featured among the year’s collected essays. Here’s an excerpt:
In light of the media upheaval, scientists can no longer assume that a responsible, high-minded press will treat their ideas with the seriousness they deserve, delivering them to policy-makers and the public for sober consideration. Instead, partisan media will convey diametrically opposed versions of where science actually stands on any contentious subject–consider, for example, the difference between how Fox News and NPR cover climate change–even as most of the public (and many policy-makers) will tune out science more or less completely, besieged by other information options.
That’s the media reality we live with, and facing it head-on is necessary not only for scientists but for everyone who cares about the impact of science and good information on public policy. We must stop assuming today’s media will dutifully carry the best and most reliable knowledge to policy-makers and the American public. Rather, it falls to us to shift gears and carry that knowledge to the entirety of the remaining media, and well beyond. In the latter endeavor, we may have to create media of our own.
The 2010 anthology arrives in September and you can pre-order your copy through Amazon here.
As events begin in Denmark, the Intersection is joining journalists from Mother Jones, Grist, The Nation, Treehugger.com, and numerous other outlets to pool together our blogging and reporting resources into the Copenhagen News Collaborative. If you peer over at the new widget added to our sidebar just below our names–called “Copenhagen News Feed”–you’ll see the latest news that the collaborative is producing or linking. Soon items from the Intersection will be appearing in the mix as well–and this widget is appearing on many sites other than our own.
So stand by–there is a lot of Copenhagen news coming, and we stand at a nexus for producing it….
Unscientific America has been adapted as a feature story for The Nation based on a hybrid of chapters 6 and 9 with new reporting on the decline of science in the media. Our article Unpopular Science will appear in the August 17 issue and is now available online. We begin:
For twenty-three years Sabin Russell worked at the San Francisco Chronicle. A top medical writer specializing in global health and infectious diseases, Russell covered subjects ranging from bioterror threats to the risk of avian flu and traveled throughout Africa to report on the AIDS epidemic. He won numerous accolades, including a 2001 Science in Society Journalism Award from the National Association of Science Writers for his reporting on the flaws of the flu vaccine
Then came March 30, 2009–his last day on the job. Russell was at MIT, on leave from his paper for a fellowship. The struggling Chronicle had been cutting staff and now suddenly forced many older career journalists to either take a buyout or risk a reduced pension. At 56, Russell was at the peak of his game, but for him, as for many of his colleagues, there was really just one option. “We have not left journalism; journalism has left us,” Russell remarked recently from San Francisco, where he is setting up a freelance office and looking for work.
Now the painful irony: Russell was pressured out of his job just as swine flu murmurs began to emerge from Mexico. This was his beat; few reporters are better equipped to tackle such a difficult yet urgent story, one so rife with uncertain but potentially severe risk. Russell even tipped off his old employer that the paper might want to get a jump on what was happening in Mexico City. “If I was covering this story now,” he says, “I’d be all over the Southern Hemisphere. It’s flu season there. How is Australia? How is the infrastructure to respond to a new strain holding up?”
Continue reading the full story at The Nation…