The Sciences

Science Journalists Blind to New Ecosystem

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMar 30, 2009 2:43 PM

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I'm starting to wonder if there's a disproportionate concern being expressed for the future of investigative reporting. Here's the latest, splashiest launch, which the Huffington Post is spearheading. (More coverage here and here.) Don't get me wrong: I'm a big believer in investigative journalism. Let a thousand more Pro Publica's bloom, and, in fact, a bunch are, albeit on a much smaller, localized level. But this newest initiative by the Huffington Post got me wondering: why isn't anyone rushing forward to fund new web vehicles for science journalism? Given the enormously complex issues that demand our attention, such as climate change and stem cell research, where are the bold, innovative proposals to keep top-notch (and increasingly unenemployed) science journalists on the beat? As best as I can tell, CJR's The Observatory and Knight's Science Journalism Tracker represent the main web endeavors being underwritten with institutional support. But each focuses on existing coverage, which is growing thinner by the day. I closely follow and value both sites, but the crisis in science journalism cries out for more creative, well funded web-based enterprises. Is Knight doing anything on this score? It's a big sponsor of academic chairs and fellowships, both of which are important. But it's not nearly enough. Regarding those nine-month long fellowships: at the risk of biting the hand that feeds me (I'm currently a recipient, on the Scripps dime, at CU's Center for Environmental Journalism), perhaps its time to rethink their purpose in these fast-changing times. Admirably, Stanford University's Knight Fellowship program is showing the way. Still, I'm not seeing anything in the way of innovative new partnerships on par with the new Huffington Post initiative, which Jeff Jarvis appraises:

This, I've long held, is where foundation and public support will enter into the new ecosystem of journalism: not by taking over newspapers but by funding investigations and other slices of a new journalistic pie.

Science journalists know a lot about ecosystems. It's time they put their heads together and figured out what their role is going to be in today's "new ecosystem of journalism."

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