(by Joost van Kasteren, President of the Dutch Association of Science Journalists Wetenschapsjournalisten Nederland)
Changes in the media landscape and in the world of science have driven the re-definition of the role of independent science journalism and its relationship with other forms of (science) communication, such as blogging scientists, press releases from research institutions and companies and websites of patients – and environmental organizations, to name a few.
The media landscape has changed dramatically since the advent of the Internet and it continues to evolve. Blogs, press releases and other kinds of free copy and footage are pushing away classic journalism. Science desks are being minimized and many have disappeared altogether due to budget cuts. Simultaneously, the remuneration of freelance journalists has decreased dramatically. Why pay for a documentary or an article if you can get articles and footage for free from universities or science media centers? Although employment and fees decline, there still is a need for sophisticated journalists to analyze, critique and explain the multitude and diversity of information: Independent observers, who not only translate the results of scientific research but put these also into perspective, keeping in mind the interests and values of their audience.
Science itself has also changed over the last decades, in organization, culture and in application of results. It is no longer the disinterested partner in the search for ‘The Truth’, if it has been the case. With the enormous pressure to publish and the growing entanglement of science and business there are sometimes perverse incentives, which sometimes lead to fraud, but more often to “sloppy research” and results that are not reproducible. Independent science journalists are needed to critically monitor the scientific community and to report about what is going on within that community… (segue/follows)