Sunday, June 22, 2008

I used to be a writer

Long before I entered graduate school, I knew I was good at math, but I felt this was more of a curse. I thought I was also creative and I didn't want to pursue something like math or science. Furthermore, my science teachers were pretty bad. In fact, when high school chemistry class ended, I was left wondering how anyone made since of that subject. Instead, I decided to write for the school newspaper and later, ended up with a degree in journalism. A year or so after that, I surrendered to science and now I'm in the final months of graduate school.
I don't regret making the switch, but I read news articles (many from local papers in major cities) about science and I get extremely annoyed because it is clear that these people have no idea what they are writing about. Personally, I think part of a journalists job is to educate and inform the public, but if you don't know enough about your topic, you are not going to ask the right questions and ultimately the public will take nothing (or worse, false information) from your article. A great example of this: sensational articles about cars that run on water.
In my opinion there is another problem. If most writers really don't understand science, then they are not going to try and keep up with it and the public is never going to get an exciting article about science in the trenches. If I didn't go back to school for science, I wouldn't understand it either and as a result, I would not be pitching ideas about it. I think this is one reason why we typically see articles about the obvious topics like NASA, cancer, MRSA and food poisoning. Sure, these topics have a lot of built-in public interest, but if journalists could understand science (from the literature) better, then maybe we would see more articles about other types of science and as a result, maybe the public interest would grow. At a minimum, the articles would at least contain factual information. For example, a journalist in the know might ask a person who claims they made a car that runs ONLY on water how they were able to violate the second law of thermodynamics.
I think sites like Science Daily do an excellent job of presenting science in a way that most people can understand, but I would like to see more science-based articles in the local newspaper. So I start to think...maybe I could do it. I used to know how to write news articles.
In fact, one of the reasons I started blogging was to improve my writing skills, my non-science publication writing skills, that is. News article and scientific publication styles of writing are completely different, so I felt a blog would be an excellent place to start.

No comments: