How Scientists Control the News

"True descendants of Prometheus, science writers take the fire from the scientific Olympus, the laboratories and the universities, and bring it down to the people." That was how William Laurence, a science writer for The New York Times, described the work of science writers in the 1930s. Fifty years later, many scientists might be more likely to compare their opposite numbers in the media to the troublesome Pandora, whose impulsive opening of the box sent by Zeus unleashed a host of evils on hum

Dorothy Nelkin
Mar 8, 1987
"True descendants of Prometheus, science writers take the fire from the scientific Olympus, the laboratories and the universities, and bring it down to the people." That was how William Laurence, a science writer for The New York Times, described the work of science writers in the 1930s. Fifty years later, many scientists might be more likely to compare their opposite numbers in the media to the troublesome Pandora, whose impulsive opening of the box sent by Zeus unleashed a host of evils on humankind. In her new book Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology (WH. Freeman and Co.), Dorothy Nelkin describes the uneasy relationship between scientist and journalist. In this excerpt from the book, she discusses how, out of fear for their professional reputations and their public image, scientists have begun to try to control the flow of information to the media.

Seeking a press that expresses...