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28 September 2010

Science Journalism in a Nutshell

A friend sent me a link to this Guardian article by Martin Robbins. It appears to be the lorem ipsum used by science journalists as they're selecting adjectives and nouns for use in the Mad Libs game they call science reporting.

Some highlights:

This paragraph elaborates on the claim, adding weasel-words like "the scientists say" to shift responsibility for establishing the likely truth or accuracy of the research findings on to absolutely anybody else but me, the journalist.

In this paragraph I will state in which journal the research will be published. I won't provide a link because either a) the concept of adding links to web pages is alien to the editors, b) I can't be bothered, or c) the journal inexplicably set the embargo on the press release to expire before the paper was actually published.


In this paragraph I will reference or quote some minor celebrity, historical figure, eccentric, or a group of sufferers; because my editors are ideologically committed to the idea that all news stories need a "human interest", and I'm not convinced that the scientists are interesting enough.


This paragraph contained useful information or context, but was removed by the sub-editor to keep the article within an arbitrary word limit in case the internet runs out of space.

I highly recommend giving it a read. The only thing that keeps it from being funnier is that it is depressingly representative of the way science journalism actually seems to work.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to let it lapse in december because, having graduated, IEEE membership costs more than $30/yr now. But one awesome thing about it was a subscription to IEEE Spectrum ( That magazine has science reporting that (usually) has substance. I think articles can be read for free online; check it out