Can science do the job of investigative journalism?

Most people such as those big in the journalism field, are discussing the crisis that is facing journalism as we have come to know it and the consensus is that there are dire implications in relation to investigative reporting and watchdog groups. As we are seeing substantial cutbacks it is expected that reporters will play a much reduced role in the years ahead that they have during the past several decades. Yet does this as a whole mean that this form of journalism is coming to an end? The reality is bloggers are taking up a large part of that role and this is not expected to change however the question becomes as to whether they are trustable.

How do we raise the level of quality and validity on materials that are posted by bloggers and other online writers so that it can actually close the gap between investigative journalism of the past and the rapid fire insta-post of the present? Some suggest that there should be awards offered to recognize these writers for thorough investigative journalism by citizens and this may help to create an atmosphere of reliability. This might raise the level of research and fact checking that accompanies traditional journalism and we may see more insightful validated pieces included in blog articles.

Along with traditional journalists, there is also a marked decline in specialization as well with technical writers in professions also decreasing, including in the sciences. While science blogging is far from new, it has not, not to this point, been the go-to form of communication for the sciences. Science enthusiasts lament the decline of this absence in the big publications while others feel that the general science reporters were never truly qualified to capture the essence of science in their roles. Many did not possess the in-depth knowledge to reasonably act as a watchdog in the field.

Arguably, many science bloggers actually do break news in the profession and sometimes, they are practitioners in some capacity and can provide an expert opinion and context to different issues that face scientists. Many bloggers are equipped with some level of science education and interest even undergrad and graduate degrees in the some discipline of the fields.

There is need for critical science writing whether it comes from bloggers or journalists that needs to investigate the flaws in published works as well as reporting on the findings. Interviews with experts should also be involved in the process of science writing if the author is not, in fact, qualified to do so from their own assessment. While it is not currently the practice of science articles to publish without referencing sources, if bloggers progress more towards investigative writing this may become more common as some may not want to face the criticism of their peers.

It could be speculated that in the field of science, bloggers have already established themselves as a source for news in the profession. There are definitely less specialized news sources for science but this may increase if citizen writers are held to higher standards. If blogs can avoid cheerleading their colleagues and sensationalizing ideas, this form of science writing may be able to fill the gap that has been created by the decrease in investigative journalism.

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