On the News @ The Guardian
Dinosaur click-bait: is getting your attention more important than getting it right?
““The public is mostly made of people who just don’t care. The media know they don’t understand the science and they don’t want to learn about it either.” An established scientist bitterly confesses to me his experiences with public outreach, via news media. He is red-faced and his voice is getting louder. “I know you have good intentions, but when you’ve been in the field for as long as me you’ll realise that we can’t win – the media will always take your words and turn them against you. All they care about is public entertainment. Accuracy? Forget it!”
We’ve been talking for ten minutes, and it has become increasingly tense. The frustration is obvious: here is someone who loves his work and really wants to tell people about it. Yet he no longer engages with the press office at his institution, not if he can avoid it. He has learnt the hard way that if you speak to the media, what you say is too often misquoted and misunderstood. The science, the real message, is lost to sensationalism.
This is a common feeling among scientists, particularly those I hang out with: my fellow palaeontologists. Our discipline is of great media interest because the public loves dinosaurs. They love dinosaurs so much, that even if you don’t work on dinosaurs, you end up talking about them and putting them into press releases. They are a touchstone: is this fossil pre-dinosaur, post dinosaur, or alongside the dinosaurs? Dinosaur has come to mean something beyond the animals themselves: it is a metaphor for ancient and awe-inspiring.” (…) READ MORE
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