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Last year, I lamented the departure from the Australian media industry of many journalists with a wealth of experience in reporting on health, medicine and science.

One of the journalists then mentioned, science writer and broadcaster Leigh Dayton, writes below that science journalism is in decline globally.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons we hear so little in-depth discussion and analysis of so many of the critical concerns of our time, whether climate change or innovation (and for more on this theme, check this recent edition of The Media Report from Radio National).


How can we have a functioning democracy with a poorly informed electorate?

Leigh Dayton writes:

I used to have the perfect job. As The Australian’s Science Writer and later also Editor of the paper’s professionally oriented health section, I was paid to talk to interesting and important people about interesting and important ideas.

From gene patenting, embryonic stem cell research, polar exploration and climate science to environmental toxins, human evolution, cosmic evolution and the now not so elusive Higgs Boson, it was all my bailiwick.

I wrote across the paper and loved every minute of it, that is until an editorial change – inspired by the Global Financial Crisis and the Newspaper Financial Crisis – put me and my round at the bottom of the newsroom food chain. Little wonder I was restructured out the door last September.

So my perfect job doesn’t exist. And not just at The Australian. The shake-up of the media has led to a shake-out of science reporters worldwide. My perfect job doesn’t exist anywhere.

As Christopher Zara wrote earlier this year in the International Business Times, science journalists are tumbling out of jobs in the US. He cites telling statistics. In 1989, there were 95 newspapers with weekly science sections. Today there are 19.

The UK is experiencing a similar decline, as science writers get pushed from their perch in the daily papers to make way for cheap general reporters and teams of online staff. The Guardian is the exception, keeping its science coverage intact. Continue reading “From the perfect job to an endangered species: the demise of science journalism and why it matters”