Teaching Journalism Students to Report on Science

Once upon a time science writing was simple: A reporter would read published studies in the scientific literature and write about the latest wonder of research or miracle of medicine.  Things have gotten more complicated since those early days of science journalism. The spread of pollution, the Vietnam war, the Chernobyl meltdown, the Challenger explosion, the emergence of AIDS and antibiotic-resistant bacteria have all revealed a darker, more vulnerable side of science. This is not to say science has gone bad: Our lives have been extended through medical advances and improvements in diet and made more convenient with personal computers and inventions so ubiquitous we take them for granted. Science has become a complex story that can no longer be portrayed as an isolated or idealistic pursuit. What happens in science affects us all and is influenced—even shaped—by money, special interests, and politics. In short, we need to report science as part of the real world.
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