Farewell to one of the greats of Science News

Science News was founded with a mission to combat disinformation by giving people accurate information about science. Kendrick Frazier dedicated his life to that cause. I was saddened to learn of his sudden passing in November, at age 80. He was one of Science News’ proudest supporters, first as a reader, then starting in 1969 as a reporter covering mostly earth sciences and then as editor in chief.

After Frazier left Science News, he spent decades as editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, but he never really left the Science News family. “Being at Science News was my dream, since I had been a reader for many, many years as a young person,” Frazier told Maria Temming, assistant editor of Science News Explores, when she interviewed him while researching the history of Science News for our centennial (SN: 3/26/22, p. 16).

He was especially proud of our rigorous (some might say obsessive) standards of accuracy: “It’s a quality, reliable, respectable science news source,” he told Temming, “and I’ve always been proud of it, because we always — and you always — put scientific discoveries in perspective.”

When I was named editor in chief in 2018, Frazier sent me a kind and encouraging e-mail. He was a close reader of every word we published, and I came to relish our e-mail and phone conversations. We talked about how Science News covered politically contentious issues back in the 1970s, about how we were managing the challenges of covering the pandemic and climate change, and about the surge in global misinformation surrounding those issues, such as the falsehood that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.

In fact, reporting for Science News is what helped spark Frazier’s interest in challenging disinformation, Temming says. In 1976, he covered a meeting where astronomer Carl Sagan, psychologist B.F. Skinner, science fiction author Isaac Asimov and other luminaries pledged to give the public “access to facts by which they can judge the validity of unusual claims.” The cover art for Frazier’s article (at left) is mind-bending (this was the ’70s, after all). Like it? You can buy it on a T-shirt at www.societyforscience.org/store

I will miss my conversations with Frazier, both for his deep insights and his unfailing kindness. I will always remember his delight in our work and in the work of all science journalists. And I will remember his joy in defending science against charlatans and propagandists. It was the joy of a battle well fought.

Nancy Shute is editor in chief of Science News Media Group. Previously, she was an editor at NPR and US News & World Report, and a contributor to National Geographic and Scientific American. She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers.