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PSCI-COM  January 2011

PSCI-COM January 2011

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Subject:

Re: Record warming isn't news

From:

Bob Ward <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

psci-com: on public engagement with science

Date:

Sat, 15 Jan 2011 19:29:32 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (135 lines)

One difference between journalists and bloggers is that the former are expected to be bound by the Editors Code of Practice. And blogs written on newspaper websites are also bound by the Code (although this fact is blatantly disregarded by the likes of James Delingpole and others). Most bloggers are unregulated and therefore largely unaccountable.
 
One of the more depressing aspects of the blogosphere is the fact that the comments sections, particularly those referring to contentious posts, can contain lots of abusive and irrelvant material which is largely unhelpful to other readers. Of course the same can be true of online comments following an online newspaper story. The only way of tackling this is through heavy moderation (you will see a very large number of comments after my Guardian blog have been removed) which places a great burden on the host and which can lead to unintentional or intentional censorship.
 
This is a particular problem on climate change at the moment - it seems as if the online environment has helped to polarise public debate.

________________________________

From: psci-com: on public engagement with science on behalf of David Waldock
Sent: Sat 15/01/2011 17:16
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PSCI-COM] Record warming isn't news


Hi Francis

Whilst I see exactly what you're saying when you contrast the various pieces, I wonder if recognising "the line" might be akin to the demarcation problem in philosophy of science, ie. "I know it when I see it".

I don't have a particular drum to bang, but I struggle when a line is drawn between blogging and journalism, not least because I see a blog as a medium rather than a profession (and journalism as a profession and not a medium).

Just my thoughts though :-D

David


On 15 Jan 2011, at 16:11, Francis Sedgemore wrote:


	David - being an arsey political blogger as well as a 'legitimate' science journalist, I quite agree.
	
	What annoys me is when journalistic media such as the mighty Groan cross the line engage in the kind of bloggox I described. There are ethical issues involved here, and it also has a deleterious effect on the quality of the journalism. Journalists can, but not necessarily *should* blog, but the line must be respected and standards upheld.
	
	With the pseudo-blogs operated by the Guardian and other UK news media, what we have is poor quality journalism and screechy blogging. Take, for example the breastfeeding paper published this week by Mary Fewtrell and her UCL colleagues. The BMJ paper and accompanying press release are very interesting, and clear in their conclusions. When it comes to the online reporting of same, the BBC did an excellent job, and whoever wrote the unbylined report (link in my blog post) deserves credit.
	
	Consider next Sarah Bosely's piece in the Guardian (link in my blog post), which takes a sensationalist approach that focuses on the anger of pro-breastfeeding campaigners, and suggests that the UCL research is tainted by association with baby food manufacturers. Result? Crap journalism leading to hyperbolic comments, with near libellous denunciations of Fewtrell et al. from people who have no intention of reading her BMJ paper.
	
	I blog, but often wonder why I bother. Perhaps it is because the regular readers of my website are mostly friends and others known to me personally, and comments from strangers are always pre-moderated. It is a troll-unfriendly environment.
	
	See...
	
	http://sedgemore.com/2011/01/off-the-tit-or-breastfeeding-bloggox
	
	Francis
	
	
	On 15/1-11 15:40, David Waldock wrote: 

		I apologise in advance if I ironically (and unintentionally) stimulate a bun-fight.
		
		When prehospital care started to become professionalised, it was quickly realised that ambulance crews were going to need to be able to give medicines to patients, and that such drugs would have to be given without prescription and without direct supervision by qualified physicians; this was seen to be a threat to the medical profession's monopoly (enforced by legislation) on prescribing drugs. Ultimately, various pragmatic changes have been made to prescribing laws, and todays ambulance crews carry a range of life-saving and pain-relieving drugs which are routinely given to patients without direct clinical supervision.
		
		It strikes me that much of the discourse about whether blogging is "legitimate", and whether the conversations generated by their output are of sufficient value seem to be rooted in a similar fear. If, as report after report has said, we accept that science needs to better engage with its public(s), I wonder if we should be criticising the ways in which the publics engage with the science, and the ways in which people are experimenting in relatively new ways of reaching out to them? I'd certainly like to see research exploring what works and what doesn't work, but it often seems to me that such discussions descend into "oughts" and "shoulds" after starting from "is" and "did".
		
		Just as a paramedic would not take over prescribing on a busy hospital ward, I feel that different communication skills are needed when working in different media and with different audiences. And dynamic engaging blogs are qualitatively different from traditional static, passive newspaper articles, they draw in different audiences, and they engage with different streams of discourse in society. And the fact that different people are getting engaged in different ways can, to me, only be a good thing.
		
		However, I'm only an MSc student so I'm ready to be corrected ;-)
		
		David


	-- 
	Dr Francis Sedgemore
	journalist and science writer
	www.sedgemore.com <http://www.sedgemore.com/> 
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