Why science journalism is challenging yet thrilling

Hard and uninteresting stuff! Not really. Quite often a science journalist comes across research papers couched in difficult boring language – the sort of an essay you are tempted to only see as meant for the converted. But a keen look at the topic, even from a short abstract presentation, gives you an idea into the importance of the subject matter to the ordinary folks.

Researchers may not have any problems with the dull and jargon-laden work but for a journalist that is your enemy. Writing an interesting story means humanizing the research project, showing clearly what it means to the public in a carefully and accurately written piece.

These are some of the things that make covering research in science thrilling. For instance, if you can find what the discovery or the theory means to the average person then you are duty bound to give exciting straight news, which may be followed by a more in-depth feature giving all the necessary details.

Science journalism deals with covering of a professional field and the journalist must avoid falling into the trap of presenting his/her story meant for the pubic in jargon. It has to be in a language understood even by the less erudite readers – an easy, soft yet very catchy, an informative read.

Research projects are time and again designed to fulfill specific basic and practical needs. But the secrets of many basic projects are not always presented in a ready-made write up, in the form of a press releases or in the work itself. As a science journalist, you must seek to interpret the nature and findings of the project. And also to give its practical value to the people without sensationalising it, in a manner that preserves its crucial matter-of-fact worth.

The journalist also has to contend with interviewing of a researcher[s], some of whom may not be interested in publicity. Some may even turn antagonistic towards publicity. The crux of the matter has over the years, mostly, been poor handling of scientific news through inaccuracies and sensationalism and that publicity will mean nothing if itʼs going to damage his/her professional career.

The science journalist must establish himself with the researchers, earning their confidence through accurate interpretation of works. This should also be done with institutions and organizations that scientists are working for or affiliated to.

But as a journalist it is equally important to discuss the research with other researchers and relevant organizations in that area of expertise, as it may be dangerous to rely only on one person as a source of information. Corroboration is a key ingredient in science journalism. These are some of the components that make science journalism challenging yet thrilling and fulfilling.