The peril of the press release

attheinterface

In a famous piece of media analysis, the average length of a soundbite in a US presidential election was found to have collapsed from 43 seconds in 1968 to just nine by 1988. Although the discovery led to plenty of head-scratching and fears about the “dumbing down” of political discourse, in the end it changed very little.

After the first day of the Circling the Square conference, it would be easy to conclude that the communication of science by the media is heading in the same direction.

Anyone who has read Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News will be aware that mainstream journalism is in a crisis. Newsroom cuts have seen journalists forced to produce more copy in shorter time with less resources.  “Churnalism”, the phenomenon of reporting press releases or wire copy ad verbatim as news stories, has grown over recent years.

Science journalism is not immune to these woes, as illustrated…

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