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Trust Issues

I have major trust issues with the science blog community.

This weekend I saw Jonathan S. Landay who spoke in great lengths about journalism’s demise and how technology is the greatest cause of this phenomenon. This is not the first time that I have heard about this, in my media class we often hear about how newspapers are losing their readership and their qualities are decreasing as people become less interested in reading them. Many people are turning to free news offered on the internet rather than buying newspapers. The problem with this is that, while the internet has a plethora of information, it also has a plethora of sources and it is often difficult to figure out which sources are credible and which are not. I know that other people have already posted on this issue (refer to Scientific blogging: Good or bad?), but I found that the timing of this lecture I heard from Landay to coincide nicely with this blog and class.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that there’s so much information available to the public. However, after reading both Scientists, Journalists, and the Meaning of Uncertainty and Perspectives on the Nature of Science, it has been made clear to me that many scientific theories cannot be trusted and many scientific journals may not be completely accurate or true to the science behind it. With so many options of articles to read online, it makes sense that some science blogs can be inaccurate as to attract publicity. I read a blog about the Dr. Oz show and how he was giving information that was so dumbed down for his audience that it was irritatingly (at least to this blogger) wrong. I wonder how often this happens?

Another interesting point that Landay brought up was that when people go online to obtain information, they go to websites that will give them the information that they want. This is mostly in regard to political news, but I could also see how it is problematic in the science news industry. If I wanted to get information online about a current science even, I would probably go to a blog rather than an in-depth news article that I wouldn’t understand. Am I still getting the same information? Probably not.

What do you think about this issue of online blogging vs. in-depth, well researched news articles? Do they do the same thing or is one better? Also, do you predict that in the future blogging and internet information will be our only source of information?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    The main issue with differentiating between these two different sources is that unless you are involved in the specific area of the science being discussed it is difficult to know whether your articles are telling the truth no matter where they are from. The average person who is reading a science blog would probably assume that the blogger received his or her information from a credible source. Similarly, the man or woman who is reading the newspaper who assume the same of the journalist. Unless the writer reveals truthfully where the information being discussed is found, the audience is taking a chance on its truthfulness anyway.

    Then the we start to question not only who are we getting our information from but are they honest and where did they get there information from and our they honest. This question will continue until we are even wondering if scientists are trustworthy and should we rely on their conclusions based on experiments and research we were not a part of and are not aware of. The questions will never end. As a result, we have to choose method for receiving information and decide to trust in it until it proves untrustworthy. There is no one who can be knowledgeable in everything so we must learn to rely on those who have experience where we do not.

    I personally chose to pull my information from a combination of these sources. I read digital newspapers and magazines, blogs, watch video clips, read books, and talk to people about the information they have received. Finally, I combine all the information I have received on a topic of choice and form my own conclusions about what is correct and incorrect and where the uncertainty lies.

  2. Sean
    October 3, 2011 at 12:29 am

    I think that you do talk about a serious problem. With the huge amount of information that is available to the general public at the click of a button, it is very difficult to determine the quality and reliablity of the material. With newspapers, or professionally written aritcles, professionals take their time to write and research on the article that they are writing. I’m not saying that people who write blogs don’t take the time to do any research. They are not professionals in the subject, which should cause the reader to question the reliability.

    The other problem is that people are always looking for the best deal that they can get. If a person finds they can get the same information for a cheaper price, its natural for a person to go get the cheaper. So its only natural for people to turn to the internet for information because its faster to get all kinds of information from the internet for free instead of having to pay for a newspaper.

    I believe that society is trending towards getting information straight from the internet over newspapers or other articles. I still believe that newspapers will exist, but they will slowly die out even from where they are today because the generations of today and the future are more technically advanced and dependant than those of older generations.

  3. October 3, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Unfortunately, I think we are moving toward more and more online blogs to get our news. It’s becoming easier to be an author and to have your posts be considered “news”. I think this has positive affects – like speed – but I think the negative ones outweigh these. Like you discussed, news online can often be inaccurate or not even news at all. I’m starting to think that generally people are getting news and opinion jumbled, and I think online blogs are making that area even more gray. Blogs are great for opinion-based topics, like sports and fashion, but news and opinion are different in most cases, excluding editorials. There needs to be well researched news stories from credible sources that are the mainstay of news.

    With the significant decrease in readership the trend would suggest that the way we get our news will completely change to online and that newspapers will soon die out. I think that speed and accessibility are becoming more important to readers because they figure it’s great to get the news at lightning fast speed. The unpromising problem with that is that you give up some credibility and accuracy to get that speed, and so I think that is a problem.

  4. October 3, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I was also at the Hatchet’s Fall Conference, and had the distinct pleasure of hearing Mr. Landay speak on the topic of modern journalism. I believe your post accurately sums up what is a very disconcerting reality with regard to the manner in which the general public obtains its worldly knowledge.

    In theory, the decentralization of the of the media sounds like a natural shift towards true democracy. After all, it is the right of the every citizen to voice his or her view on current events, and blogging represents the ultimate modern-day embodiment of the first amendment. However, I believe that there comes a point when this personal liberty serves to inadvertently undermine the legitimacy of the information marketplace.

    Nevertheless, we have to choose our battles wisely. The decentralization of the media is well beyond our immediate control. If a fourteen-year-old girl receives a shiny new Macbook and decides to open a blog, there is nothing we can say or do to stop her, and nor should we try. It is the role of the consumer and the consumer alone to select which information is worthy of attention. When composing a research paper, for example, students must actively seek out facts and figures that they know to be trustworthy. Whether they visit Wikipedia or The New York Times webpage is their decision, and they must be willing to face any consequences.

    What I am saying, in effect, is that acquiring information is becoming a much more active process. In 15 or 20 years, we may not simply be able to pick up a newspaper and instantly have a better conception of the surrounding world. Instead, it will be our responsibility to sift through internet webpages to determine fact from fiction.

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