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A man tries to use more female sources

Male/female icons on scale

Science writer John R. Platt writes about his efforts to change the gender balance in his reporting and interviews Kate McCarthy of the Women’s Media Center, which has a service aimed at helping journalists find more female experts for their stories: "The ultimate objective here, McCarthy pointed out, shouldn’t just be to have more female sources, but to add more nuance to reporting. You can’t objectively cover the world, she says, if you ignore half of the population."

Covering science mixed with advocacy

James Hansen, image via Shutterstock

The latest climate science news started with publication of a paper from a team led by former NASA scientist James Hansen. It got widespread coverage, but not from the Associated Press, whose reporter was put off by Hansen's advocacy. Alexis Sobel Fitts examines both sides of the discussion and asks: "So Hansen is a brilliant and pedigreed scientist with a clear agenda, which raises the question: How should his research be interpreted and approached by journalists?"

Climate coverage is on the decline

 Press center at the U.N. Conference on Climate Change

Dana Nuccitelli discusses a report from Media Matters for America on climate coverage in U.S. broadcast news and writes that it dropped in 2015 despite major events like the Paris agreement: "Most of the decline was due to ABC, which only spent 13 minutes in 2015 covering climate change — three times less than even Fox. While Fox’s coverage increased, most of the network’s climate segments featured interviews with guests who criticized efforts to address global warming."

Is science journalism really uncritical?

Michael Schulson set off a Twitterstorm on Tuesday with his Pacific Standard critique of science reporting: "Today, most science coverage still follows a press release model. Articles focus on individual studies, as they come out. Reporters rarely return to research years down the line. Articles provide little context or criticism, and they usually frame the story within a larger narrative of human progress." Schulson responds to his critics.

Doing journalism for an advocacy group

Flint water plant, image via Shutterstock

Cynthia Barnett interviews Curt Guyette, a Ford Foundation-funded investigative reporter working for the American Civil Liberties Union, about his efforts to call attention to the Flint drinking water crisis, and about being a journalist who is employed by an advocacy group: "It was my personal evolution and my professional evolution as a journalist … What I hope I've established is that what matters is the work itself, and whether it stands up to scrutiny or not."

Freelancers and conflicts of interest

Conflict of interest definition image via Shutterstock

Do the conflict-of-interest rules that apply to staff writers also apply to freelancers? They might, at some outlets, and freelancers may be surprised to learn that, Whitney Pipkin writes: "How should someone who works for a dozen clients with various funding models determine what constitutes a conflict? And — in an American economy that could be 40 percent freelance by 2020 — is it enough to have a policy that doesn’t separately address the nuances of contract work?"

Recent disasters in news releases

Solar system image via Shutterstock

Paul Raeburn marks the return of the Tracker (formerly the Knight Science Journalism Tracker) with a post on two recent incidents, including Caltech's playing favorites with its news release on Planet 9: "The school won’t identify them, but Scientific American, the Washington Post, Science, and Popular Science were among publications that produced stories on Jan. 20 with comments from one or both of the study’s authors, suggesting they had the early access."

The questions Sally Ride hated most

Sally Ride image via Shutterstock

From Maria Popova comes an excerpt from a conversation — with a bonus animation — between feminist icon Gloria Steinem and astronaut Sally Ride, who says the worst part of her training involved journalists: "Everybody wanted to know what kind of makeup I was taking up — they didn’t care about how well-prepared I was to operate the arm or deploy communication satellites … The worst question that I’ve gotten was whether I cried when we got malfunctions in the simulator."

The gender imbalance in science writing

Scales with gender icons image via Shutterstock

Cynthia Graber and Katharine Gammon report on an effort to gauge whether men get more science bylines than women and the answer is yes: "For short articles, women’s bylines typically equaled and in some cases outnumbered men’s. But for longer front-of-book or back-of-book pieces, where writers have an opportunity to showcase their writing style and establish credentials that could lead to opportunities to write the more prestigious feature articles, men outnumbered women."

Resisting the tasty morsels in health news

Breaking news headlines image via Shutterstock

Sharon Begley writes about what's wrong with a lot of reporting on medical issues — too many writers who take the easy route in reporting on "breakthroughs" uncritically: "Somehow, medical writers forget (or never learn) that they are supposed to be journalists, not cheerleaders, and that to serve their readers or listeners they need to bring as much scrutiny, skepticism, and critical thinking to their field as the politics reporter brings to a candidate’s tax plan."