By Carmen Herrera |Coyote Contributor|
Leave it to NPR reporter Joe Palca to make a lecture about science and the media to make perfect sense.
Since 1992, Dr. Palca has been a Science Correspondent for the National Public Radio, and has received his PhD in psychology from the University of California. Recently, his range of expertise has entered the field of journalism with a science perspective.
The lecture titled, “Science and News: A Marriage of Convenience”, Dr. Palca noted that science’s role in the media-particularly journalism-is a language of it’s own. And this language may be too complex for many.
Dr. Palca’s explains this point by referencing sports talk in journalism simply and how analysts from ESPN or Sports Central don’t need to explain the concept and terms for its respective sport.
Yet when science makes headlines, which is pointed out as rarely, journalists often find themselves needing to overemphasize the terms and in the process, lose their audience.
While the media covers financial and politics, and pop culture on a need-to-know basis, Dr. Palca explains that scientific stories that truly matter, are placed aside.
Dr. Palca then asked the audience of students and colleagues how many science news stories within the past year they can name. Not surprisingly, only a handful of stories were named.
The media’s coverage of science includes natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy or climate change. Stories about cells, space or plant development fly past the ears of most people.
There are more good stories rather than natural disasters out there, as Dr. Palca explained but some get little to no attention. Because science is a slow, developing process, most coverage is not in display ready for people to receive.
Another shocking example Dr. Palca demonstrated about science in news is the coverage of Nobel Prize winners in science. Scientists are known to research groundbreaking and extraordinary work, yet they don’t get their proper recognition until years later if they are lucky enough to win this prestigious prize.
Dr. Palca put it in this perspective: science is not mainstream, and these studies-some created in 1996-are not published in any sort of media outlet at the time.
However, it is the same story six years later, that reaches almost 460 or more news outlets for winning the Nobel Prize. Same story, but not recognized until it wins.
So if this is a problem for the scientific field, what is there to do? Dr. Palca gives his “big idea.”
Dr. Palca proposes that science needs to reach audiences on a more personal level. As one of the 16 science experts on NPR, Dr. Palca describes that, “scientists don’t like to get personal or are not really good communicators. They’d rather be known as ‘experts’.”
If readers don’t know that they are reading a science article that mirrors a scholarly journal, science won’t struggle to attempt to make an impact on journalism and the media.
There may seem a long journey ahead to get science to mainstream and receive it’s proper recognition, but Dr. Palca gave characteristics to help improve this issue that he tries to fix every air time he gets.
Through Dr. Palca’s wisdom and perspective, the lecture of merging science and news teaches every student in any field the importance of delivering great journalism and communication to the public.