I have noticed that “science journalists” are among the most biased “reporters” writing in the media today. Certainly on the stem cell controversy, they joined—no led—the hysterical hype over embryonic stem cells and stifled adult stem cell good news, either by not reporting it—such as a study in which patients paralyzed with spinal cord injury regained feeling!—or by burying the story with faint reportage.
In other words, they would drive ESCR stories, and maybe or maybe not report more notable adult stories, and often damning with faint praise—while also being sure to put in a reference to the greater hope offered by embryonic. It happened so often, I thought of it as a template. Then there was the trick of using the term “stem cells” when it was adult, intended to make the reader think embryonic. You would only learn the truth deep in the story, if at all. That still happens.
In any event, over as Science 2.0, Hank Campbell hits on the bias meme. From, “Science Journalism: Revealers of the Rotten?”:
Last decade, though, science journalism lost its way, as we have discussed many times before. Too many science journalists became cheerleaders for science or, worse, advocates for aspects of controversial science topics. They were no longest trusted guides for the public and, as a result, people stopped reading them and corporate media no longer had need for something no one read. Science 2.0 and other sites filled the void nicely.Yup. But I think the greater issue was the collapse of mainstream journalism. There are far fewer reporters today, meaning fewer bodies to cover science. As a consequence, we often see general reporters covering science stories, and they just spout the party line because they don’t know any better.
Campbell believes that the science journalists on the Internet and still writing in the mainstream have a liberal/corporate bias. Liberal bias begets liberally biased stories:
Chambers and Sumner address other issues as well, like why science journalism, which should be about exposing flaws and keeping people honest, seems to be incapable of doing it for their own field. Martin Robbins, also at The Guardian, was one of few journalists even willing to acknowledge that science journalism had a liberal bias. That is having blinders on, folks. When majorities are overwhelming, it is easy to dismiss bias - denying there is any bias when you have to see the affected people in the hallway is less easy. That is why it is so easy to deny there is any bias against non-liberals in academia; there is no one there to argue the opposite so if a scientist knows even one conservative, they assume there is no prejudice. It’s the rationalization some whites also used to use to deny that racism still existed...Yes, that’s a problem in journalism generally. They often write for each other more than the consumer. Most are liberal. The stories end up liberal. It is like a high school clique, with the same group-think and common enemy mentality. And they alienate the 35-40% of the people (in the USA) who are conservative. Not a good idea to drive away a large chunk of potential customers when you are in danger of going out of business.
Can science journalists ask the awkward questions? Can they be trusted guides? Can they police themselves? The first two seem obviously yes, because only the best people have survived and they did those two things anyway. But in a small insular community, will they police each other? No. I am sure they will police me, they are very good about swarming over anyone who isn’t gushing about how awesome corporate science media and its paid bloggers and pet positions are, but it’s clearly an echo chamber and they are very careful around each other.