I had a blast at the British Science Festival (and no, that wasn’t a chemistry joke).
I spent my mornings in and out of press conferences, then deciding which were worth covering for the festival news. The clue’s in the title - yep, it has to be new. And while there’s lots of cool science here, not all of it’s new. Like the knowledge that texting whilst you walk is dangerous or that we have fewer friends at the beginning and end of our lives than in the middle. Which isn’t new, or that cool really.
I covered a couple of psychology stories, and found them hard to write. It might be true what they say about being a better news journalist when you’re lay in that area, like the majority of your readers. Hence the piece I wrote about animal-human hybrids being a dream to write.
All this goes against the view that the best science journalism is written by experts. Of course, non-specialist reporters need to work much harder at accuracy (although it boggles my head to imagine writing about something I didn’t understand), but I think that specialists risk being too precious and out of touch with what the public can really understand from a 400 word article. Which is exactly what I did in a piece on children’s false memories. Who’da thought that the whole world doesn’t know what semantic priming is?
One solution to this lay/expert argument would be to have specialist sub-eds. That way, they can be as hawk-eyed as we need when it comes to accuracy and faithful reporting, but at root, the story comes from a place similar to the one it’s destined for.