Science Reporting Fallout

Here’s a quick update to yesterday’s story about the epidemic downsizing of U.S. newspaper staffs, courtesy of colleague Tim Wheeler at the Baltimore Sun. He offers some concrete evidence of the fallout from such cutbacks on science coverage.

After “amputating” about a quarter of the news staff this summer, his paper also cut the amount of space devoted to news (as opposed to advertising), he reports. So the idea of “Doing ‘more with less’ has degenerated, I’m afraid, to doing less with less.” To wit: Science and environment stories are often shortened substantially to meet with tightening space constraints — or even spiked (meaning they don’t make it into print at all).

This veteran environmental reporter (and immediate past president of the Society of Environmental Journalists) observes that “Even so, we continue to cover the environment and science — albeit with a lone reporter for each after once having three or four times that number on each beat.”

No matter how you spin it, that can’t be good for ensuring an informed electorate. What’s more, you know that with the deep job cuts occurring in newsrooms across the country, the Sun’s approach can hardly be unique.

Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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