I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where people go to get their science news. Of course, there are some excellent science blogs out there, but between the dedicated science magazines (and their online presences), individual bloggers, and the websites dedicated to (among much else) science reporting/rumor-mongering there is an enormous push for continuous science news. The problem is that there just isn’t that much real news in a given day.
I commented on a similar issue with regards to journalism generally some time ago. Essentially, I said, being a paid journalist is not the same thing as doing it for fun:
There comes a point where people who truly have something to say will want to be compensated in a manner commensurate with the amount of time and knowledge they’re putting into it, and if the market doesn’t bear that cost, then the market gets amateurish reporting in every sense of the term.
This doesn’t mean that the writing at these websites isn’t fun and engaging and even informed. The problem is that in an effort to continuously put out product, emphasis is given to half-formed theories, or ideas known to be wrong, or even experimental results which have not only not been verified, but haven’t even actually been published (or written into an actual paper). The problem is that people aren’t so much getting science news as B.S.
Every now and again, when I’m feeling particularly energetic, I try to hunt down a few of the very speculative theory papers that are making their way across the pages of the science blogs with an effort toward debunking them. But the torrent is relentless; who has the time? To their credit (I suppose) most of the blogs report on papers featuring (for example) variable speed of light and gravitational constants with skepticism, but they report on them nevertheless. They have to fill their pages. Yes, I’m being cynical today, but I simply don’t see the point in reporting on things that you know are wrong.
Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, but I’m afraid scientific revolutions just don’t happen that often.