Censorship in science journalism
|May 19, 2014||Posted by News under Media, News, Science|
Here Nick Ishmael Perkins avoids ruffling feathers but provides some useful info.
For example, most science journalism censorship does not include threats to life, limb, or property, just making people shut up about what public or private bureaucracies don’t want them to talk about.
My own take: That means all the Voltaire stuff about not agreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it is just daft. I won’t defend to the death somebody’s right to say that an approved “health” cereal exacerbates some people’s health problems. I will, however, work for the kind of society where healthcrats can’t shut him up because the government has a sweet deal with the manufacturers.
There are also the frequent requests by sources for story approval before publication when they agree to talk. Many will argue that this is barely censorship — just caution borne out of experience of inaccurate reporting of complex technical interviews by journalists. This is an understandable point, but to avoid stepping onto a slippery slope, only editors should approve stories.
The obvious solution is this: The subject is asked to approve story facts (= you got your PhD at Cambridge. The view of your paper is ….), not story opinion. Otherwise, it is a press release.
Perkins’ best point is this one:
Self-censorship is also common practice among science journalists. If you anticipate that your attempts to cover a story might result in alienation, or reprimand, from the expert sources you depend on or the media outlet that pays you, then you may have to make a judgement call about that problem relative to society’s need to know. Faced with such decisions, it is unsurprising that journalists will often choose to maintain their professional position and their livelihoods, or to avoid working with certain editors whose stance they disagree with.
In short, wear the pom poms or starve.
Readers should consider their options carefully now. Who benefits from what the journalist is allowed to write?