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March 22, 2000


British Journalism


- http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

The Royal Institution and the House of Lords science and technology
committee are recommending that science journalism in Britain should improve
itself (see AgBioView posting by Andrew Abel,and AgBiotech Reporter
(http://www.bioreporter.com 22/03/2000).

One general observation: it will be hard to make news-hungry news editors
take their science specialist, or science, seriously. They live on an
altogether more brutal planet.

One specific observation: under "balance" it is recommended that reporters
seek the majority view amongst scientists. Well, yes, point taken. Reporters
should seek to know and understand and not discount the majority position.

But science quite often proceeds by the insights of unpopular,
counter-intuitive, maverick loners. These are, naturally, great copy. And
sometimes they are right too.

A further general observation. The glory of British journalism is,
contradictorily, that it is simultaneously incredibly bad and incredibly
good. Making it more even, like much US journalism, risks dousing its
eccentric flame.

Richard D North
Author, Life on a modern planet: A manifesto for progress (Manchester
University Press, 1995)