Guardian Blogger Spoofs Science Journalism

By Seitz, Jonathan | Nieman Reports, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Guardian Blogger Spoofs Science Journalism


Seitz, Jonathan, Nieman Reports


Prompted by dismay at the dearth of evidence-based policymaking, Martin Robbins, a researcher and science writer, created a community blog called The Lay Scientist. This fall The Guardian hired him to be one of its four science bloggers. It didn't take long for a post he wrote--with the headline "This is a news website article about a scientific paper"--to go viral.

In it, he satirized what he sees as the too-frequently formulaic approach to reporting on scientific discoveries in which journalists fail to provide informed guidance as part of their coverage. Robbins used the BBC as his example of science coverage being done with "robotic impartiality," with headlines written in ways that are designed to "distance themselves [the journalists] from the words inside."

Here is how Robbins began his post:

   In this paragraph I will state the
   main claim that the research
   makes, making appropriate
   use of "scare quotes" to ensure
   that it's clear that I have no
   opinion about this research
   whatsoever.

His commentary-as-spoof struck a chord with other bloggers and became The Guardian's most read story that week. But rather than stop at writing this cheeky send-up of science writing, Robbins returned the following week with constructive criticism. …

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