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What does a Science Journalist do?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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While the exact tasks performed by a science journalist may vary, usually depending on particular assignments or sources of employment, there are some duties common among these journalists. In general, this type of journalist writes articles that relay scientific information to the general public in a way that is easily understandable. This typically involves a fair amount of research and a strong understanding of scientific principals and findings. Much like other journalists, a science journalist typically checks any facts or research he or she is reporting about to ensure accuracy and factual reporting whenever possible.

A science journalist, sometimes also called a science writer, is someone who writes for a news outlet, usually a newspaper or magazine, and covers scientific stories. He or she usually has a background in journalism, typically a college degree, and an interest in and understanding of various scientific fields. While it is not necessary for this type of journalist to have a degree in a scientific area, he or she typically has a general background in science. This often allows a science journalist to better perform the various functions of his or her job.

One of the major duties of a science journalist is writing stories for news outlets that report about scientific research or discoveries. This usually begins with the journalist looking through scientific periodicals or online databases to see what reports have been released dealing with scientific subjects. The journalist determines what discoveries may have an impact on the lives of those outside of the scientific community, and then writes on those studies. This usually involves a great deal of research by the science journalist, and journalists who fail to perform this research are often criticized by other journalists and scientists.

Once the research is complete, a science journalist typically writes a news story about the subject. This may be published in a newspaper or magazine, or on an Internet website such as an online news outlet or a blog, or it may be used as a script for news anchors to read while broadcasting. Regardless of the format used, however, this writing should serve to help people without a background in science to better understand the findings of research. Since the science journalist is reporting on what others have done, however, there is the potential for opinion or bias to be introduced into the story; when this occurs, there is typically a negative response from the scientific and journalistic communities.

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Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Jun 13, 2014

@Ana1234 - I think that's true in a perfect world, but it hardly seems to be true in this one. Most of the science-based headings I see in the news these days seem to be based around sensationalism rather than neutrality and often have very little to do with the data.

If you didn't know better you'd think that it was the journalist's job to find readers, rather than to find news worth reporting.

By Ana1234 — On Jun 12, 2014

@MrsPramm - I think it's also the job of a good journalist, in any specialty, to be a skeptic. Even when reporting on science. Because no matter how compelling the evidence might seem, there is very little that can be accepted as fact. We can only really accept a lot of theories as the best explanation we've managed to come up with so far.

Which doesn't mean we shouldn't act if the evidence is compelling. But, I think that journalists have to remain as neutral as possible and not try to influence the public too much.

By MrsPramm — On Jun 12, 2014

Of all jobs in journalism at the moment I'd say this is one of the more important ones. People seem to be so distrustful of science these days for no good reason. And it is really harming the world. I mean, take climate change for example. If most scientists in the world think that a certain action should be taken, and their reasoning is based on solid research, then people should listen to them. We're all going to regret it if they don't.

And it's the job of science journalists to report these kinds of findings in a way that can be understood and accepted by the general public.

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