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Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Science Journalism Growing Overseas

Way back in the mists of time, probably some time in the late 1970s, New Scientist sent two people from to the AAAS in Denver, the magazine's forst foray into alien territory. When they got there, they were surprised to find another two or three locals, folks from the BBC's always excellent radio science unit. That was the sum total of the Brit contingent.

How things have changed. Other reports suggest that the UK contingent all but ounumbered the locals.

Now we have Cristine (Cris) Russell, who is probably too young to have been in Denver, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review about the increasing foreign presence at the AAAS, Science Journalism Growing Overseas.

"The number of science reporters and journalists-in-training from far-flung parts of the world—the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America, as well as Canada, the U.K., Germany, Sweden and other parts of Europe—has expanded at AAAS. At the same time, the presence of working American science reporters from major newspapers and magazines has declined over time, their ranks often replaced by a diverse group of freelancers and digital journalists who write, blog, and Twitter for a variety of startup and established news and information Web sites."
The comments on this piece suggest that the golden era is over. "I think that science journalism is a vanishing specialty in Germany as well as in the United States," says one observer.

Another group present in reasonable numvers in Denver was the team from CBC's Quirks and Quark. At the Chicago bash this fine rival to the BBC – I have memory of an embarrassingly late bar bill drinking with David Suzuki in Denver – was, it seems, "not represented by a staffer".

Paul Raeburn tries to bring things down to earth with the view that the AAAS was "rarely a showcase for breaking news". Sorry Paul, but that has always been the case, even when the US science writing corps turned up in large numbers.

The science pack inthe USA used to be able to sell rewarmed science to its editors. Are you telling us that these editors are now much more in tune with what is happening in science?

That really would be good news.