This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Journalists speak out

It’s not often that journalists are the ones being quoted. And going by the attendance of this afternoon’s symposium, Global warming heats up: how the media covers climate change, a lot of people were eager to find out what they have to say for themselves.

Andrew Revkin of the New York Times gave several reasons why the accurate reporting of climate change often clashes with an editor’s news values. He said that because many developments in climate change have no obvious “peg” to sell them as news stories, editors often leap on what they can sell, regardless of whether they are on solid scientific ground. One example is Hurricane Katrina, which many newspapers reported as a direct consequence of global warming despite any real evidence to back the claim. “You lose all those caveats that scientists crave,” he said.

He went on to say that the science, which by its nature is complex, is difficult to report accurately when time and page space is limited. So simple messages such as “CO2 equals warmer planet” are inevitably conveyed more frequently than the factors affecting the likelihood of an ice meltdown in Greenland. In a similar vein, editors do not understand the importance of small developments in research. “The word ‘incremental’ in the Times newsroom is the death knell to a story,” he joked.

Revkin also addressed the thorny topic of opinion in science journalism: “For every PhD there is an equal and opposite PhD.” In other words, it is easy to find a scientist with a counter-opinion (when dealing with climate change, a sceptic) to make a story appear balanced. David Dickson, director of the website SciDev.Net, said that this tendency is a result of a fundamental misunderstanding among many journalists about the nature of science. Unlike politics, for example, the science community contains such a thing as consensus and the weight of one scientist’s opinion over another.

This entry was posted in AAAS Annual Meeting 2008. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Comments are closed.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text