Thoughts on the Media

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neph00

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Recently, I was reading elsewhere about public knowledge of the space industry, the unfortunate lack of it, and people's opinions of how to raise it. This was all well and good, its certainly great to get more people interested, but there seemed to be large support for getting more media coverage. Its here that I say take very great care.

The problem in my opinion is that media coverage, even honored news, is not necessarily truth. I'm not saying its lies either, I don't believe its manipulated by the government or any such nonsense; it is simply a business, one concerned first and foremost with its own profits. Therefore there is of course an emphasis on ratings, and a taste for drama. Successful space launches are interesting, sure, but whats even better for ratings is failure. Columbia and Challenger together probably got as much notice as all of the Apollo missions combined. And that is a tremendous killer of public support.

The fact is, space technology is risky, and more importantly, its perfectly okay that it is risky. This is a fact the greater public does not understand, and one the media industry simply does not care about. When you stop and think about what a rocket is really doing, riding on an explosion, it tends to make rocket science look shockingly successful.

So whenever new technologies in the space sector are being developed, they must be tested. They must be tried out, and no one who understands the process should be disappointed by a few failures. Early failures are often welcome - they help flesh out the kinks in the system, bring flaws into the light, where they can be fixed, long before a technology is used more commercial. Take the several failed flights of SpaceX's Falcon 1. The trouble is, Falcon 1 was tiny, little more than a satellite pusher, and of not much interest to the general media. The Falcon 9 is a different story, this is the vehicle that WILL be moving supplies to the ISS, the vehicle that very realistically could be the first commercial vehicle to carry astronauts. Fortunately, its first test was quite a success.

So lets assume for a moment it wasn't. Immediately, the media would jump at it, and opponents of the commercial direction would jump on the band wagon saying that, somehow, even though it WAS just a test, this proves conclusively that the commercial sector can't handle this (same thing could, ironically, be said for a federal program bogged down in bureaucracy, and indeed it has been), that its too dangerous. Media spin would support this to make it more sexy to viewers, public support would drop, funding would drop, corners would be cut in the future, the whole program would suffer and possible even fail. But why? Because of one "failed" test? Wasn't the test meant to find such problems, so they could be fixed? Why take away the funding that can fix them?

That being said, be careful what you wish for. Yes, public awareness of the space industry most certainly needs to be raised. But perhaps the media is not the best way to do this. Perhaps Blue Origin has the right idea, keeping its plans and its testing quite under wraps.

So, converse. Is media coverage to promote awareness worth the risk? Talk about it.
 
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EarthlingX

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It reporters know what they are talking about, which is not exactly a rule, it is probably positive. In my experience, that is rather rare, and becomes a problem when they start expressing opinions, because it is easier to believe reporter, than to check on your own. I usually find Wikipedia to be the quickest and the best source, and it often comes on top of Google search.

An older, somehow related article about it :

http://www.thespacereview.com : Space fetishism: obsession or rational action?
by John K. Strickland, Jr.
Monday, January 18, 2010

Dwayne Day’s recent article about “space fetishism” (“Space fetishism: space activism’s obsession with technological and ideological saviors”, The Space Review, December 21, 2009) deserves a serious response. His constructive criticism is not being deliberately derogatory to activists, and on some points, his analysis is correct. However, while he has given lots of examples, he has not defined what he is describing. He has described as fetishism support for the entire spectrum of pro-space issues including space solar power, rapid launch technology, microsats, heavy lift vehicles, space elevators, nuclear rockets, the VASIMR rocket engine, propellant depots in orbit, ISRU, solar sails, and so on. It’s fair, then, to ask the question, “Is there anything an activist can support that is not fetishism in Day’s book?”

I proudly plead guilty to being an advocate of many of the items listed above. However, I think a large part of whether an activist’s actions could be classed as fetishism or not is the approach taken rather than the issue chosen: how support for a topic is conducted. In other words, is the supporter looking beyond a narrow technical or ideological arena in expressing their support? It is also clear that in any topic arena—space or otherwise—that depends on complex technology, you will find a bunch of half-baked ideas being proposed, both by newcomers and inexperienced long-term enthusiasts who do not have enough “real world” experience to be wary of all claims. The credulous university student excitement over the “discovery” of cold fusion and the real breakthroughs in high-temperature superconductivity many years ago come to mind as good examples. The former has never been substantiated, and the latter has still not been implemented on a large scale due to the extreme difficulty of trying to make wires out of what is basically a ceramic! More basic physics work is obviously needed here.
I have my list of reporters who very rarely, if ever, mess up, and many of them write for SDC.
 
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HopDavid

Guest
neph00":1rzpx1za said:
The problem in my opinion is that media coverage, even honored news, is not necessarily truth. I'm not saying its lies either, I don't believe its manipulated by the government or any such nonsense; it is simply a business, one concerned first and foremost with its own profits. Therefore there is of course an emphasis on ratings, and a taste for drama.
I recall watching Anderson Cooper after LRO crashed the Centaur stage into the moon.

The bimbo reporting on the event started out by allowing that she knew very little about space. Then she announced the event was a failure because it didn't toss up a spectacular plume.

In the infotainment business, hair spray is more important than scholarship.
 
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HopDavid

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EarthlingX":iv5yrzvp said:
I have my list of reporters who very rarely, if ever, mess up, and many of them write for SDC.
My favorite space reporter is James Oberg. Haven't seen much of him lately, though.
 
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vulture4

Guest
Oberg is usually to e found on the msnbc web page. He is very knowlgable, having working in mission control for many years. However I think space activities should achieve support by producing practical benefits, not just by getting favorable press.
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
Unfortunately, I think the OP is correct. The level of ignorance about space displayed by the MSM would be shocking if it wasn't so common. The talking bubbleheads know NOTHING about what they are describing. In fact less that nothing...it's "Not Even Wrong".

Sadly, real science reporters no longer exist on CBS,NBC, ABC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. Why do you think Miles Obrien is on spaceflightnow and SDC? Because CNN disbanded their science division.

There's a reporter for the NBC/Universal who asks such stupid questions now, one must question his mental abilities...I won't name him now out of respect for back when the elevator went to the top floor.

I have to turn down the sound during launches covered on TV, or I find myself screaming at the profound ignorance of what is being said.

But don't get me started... :)

MW
 
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docm

Guest
Where's Jules Bergman, Hugh Downs etc. when we really need them :roll:
 
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EarthlingX

Guest
HopDavid":25paecfc said:
EarthlingX":25paecfc said:
I have my list of reporters who very rarely, if ever, mess up, and many of them write for SDC.
My favorite space reporter is James Oberg. Haven't seen much of him lately, though.
James Oberg :

spectrum.ieee.org : Wesley T. Huntress: Author of NASA's New Strategy
BY James Oberg // April 2010

On 15 April, NASA got its long-awaited marching orders from President Obama. The agency is to send people to Mars using a series of ”stepping-stone” destinations that are themselves of interest: Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids, and Martian moons. The plan is pretty much exactly what Planetary Society president Wesley T. Huntress Jr. proposed in 2004. James Oberg corresponded with Huntress following President Obama’s introduction of the plan.
Nice one :)

From the top of my list :

http://www.universetoday.com : Nancy is Now on Venus
June 17th, 2010

Written by Nancy Atkinson

This was posted on USGS Astrogeology Science Center website yesterday: "The name Nancy has been approved for a crater on Venus located at 6.4N, 272.2E." I checked with Jennifer Blue, who posts the latest nomenclature planetary news on the USGS site, wondering if the crater was named for anyone in particular or just Nancys in general. She told me that small craters (less than 20 km in diameter) on Venus are named with common female first names, while larger craters (over 20 km) are named for deceased women who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their field.

This crater is pretty small, and I'm not dead yet, fortunately, so it is not named for me.

"The crater named Nancy is not named for anyone in particular," Jennifer wrote me. "But you could pretend that it was named for you!"

I think that's what I'll do.
Yea, me too. :cool:
 
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Valcan

Guest
MeteorWayne":178jhwrb said:
Unfortunately, I think the OP is correct. The level of ignorance about space displayed by the MSM would be shocking if it wasn't so common. The talking bubbleheads know NOTHING about what they are describing. In fact less that nothing...it's "Not Even Wrong".

Sadly, real science reporters no longer exist on CBS,NBC, ABC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. Why do you think Miles Obrien is on spaceflightnow and SDC? Because CNN disbanded their science division.

There's a reporter for the NBC/Universal who asks such stupid questions now, one must question his mental abilities...I won't name him now out of respect for back when the elevator went to the top floor.

I have to turn down the sound during launches covered on TV, or I find myself screaming at the profound ignorance of what is being said.

But don't get me started... :)

MW
Try talking about new power systems in space then having someone say we shouldnt use nuclear power in space or even be there because nuclear power would irradiate space and we already messed up earth we should keep space pristine.............

Or why shooting at asteroids is a bad idea...........
 
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EarthlingX

Guest
arstechnica.com : Successful science communication: A case study
By Matt Ford
Last updated a day ago



It is no secret that, in general, i.e. outside of dedicated science reporting venues and the occasional medical report on the evening news, the scientific community does a craptastic job of communicating with the general public. While I think we at Nobel Intent do it admirably, we are but an infinitesimal sliver in the pie of science. A report that appeared in a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights a case study of effective science communication and deconstructs it to show what parts may be generally applicable to other areas of science.

"More effective communication is badly needed at almost every level of science," said Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, a research associate in the Department of Zoology at Oregon State University. "It doesn't have to be expensive, but we have to get out of the ivory tower, away from our scientific jargon and work more closely with our various audiences."

The PNAS reports looks at how the ocean science community made the case for the creation of marine sanctuaries and highlights a handful of key approaches that were kept in mind during the process. The basic principles behind these approaches should be effective for any form of scientific communication.
 
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EarthlingX

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http://www.guardian.co.uk : This is a news website article about a scientific paper
Posted by Martin Robbins

Monday 27 September 2010 09.19 BST

In the standfirst I will make a fairly obvious pun about the subject matter before posing an inane question I have no intention of really answering: is this an important scientific finding?

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.

In this paragraph I will briefly (because no paragraph should be more than one line) state which existing scientific ideas this new research "challenges".

If the research is about a potential cure, or a solution to a problem, this paragraph will describe how it will raise hopes for a group of sufferers or victims.

This paragraph elaborates on the claim, adding weasel-words like "the scientists say" to shift responsibility for establishing the likely truth or accuracy of the research findings on to absolutely anybody else but me, the journalist.

In this paragraph I will state in which journal the research will be published. I won't provide a link because either a) the concept of adding links to web pages is alien to the editors, b) I can't be bothered, or c) the journal inexplicably set the embargo on the press release to expire before the paper was actually published.
...


Read comments too, quite fun :)
 
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Valcan

Guest
EarthlingX":3czkp4hp said:
http://www.guardian.co.uk : This is a news website article about a scientific paper
?[/i]
Read comments too, quite fun :)
LOL One of my favorites :lol:

nordelius
27 September 2010 10:41AM

This is a comment where I question the relevance of such an article in a serious newspaper, thus making it clear to all who read it that I have not actually read the article, or noticed which part of the website it is in or what the headline is.

I will also question the temporal and monetary value of the article to myself, despite not having paid any money to read the article, and having chosen freely to spend my time reading the article AND commenting on it.

How many times have i seen a coment on say a startrek convention they report on asking why its there!!!! when its put under "entertainment"
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
That's a hoot!, and sadly far too accurate. It's interesting to see it stated so well when I reflect on my reactions to almost every "Big Science" announcement posted here in the fora that I have replied to. And that's whether the source is a newspaper, a web page, or even :shock: SDC :)
 
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