Science and starlets vie for attention

Science news, said Emmy Award-winning science reporter Robert Krulwich, must compete for the public’s, and editors’, attention with wars, earthquakes, close elections, celebrities near death, sex scandals, murders, or “a rumor that Jennifer Aniston is pregnant—always good.

“The problem with a science story is that it is just suspect. People think the public is not going to get it or it’s too hard unless it’s a chocolate-will-make-you-live-longer story,” Krulwich said in April at a talk sponsored by the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

By contrast, he said, a movie star’s love life is common knowledge. “There is a whole lot of shared information. But suppose I want to tell the story of a gene or a protein?” he said. “You say protein and people think it has something to do with a breakfast cereal.”

Science writers need to fill in a knowledge gap to make such stories accessible, said Krulwich, who has covered business and politics as well as abstract scientific concepts for radio and television. “We try very hard to create situations that explain something.”