AAS Meeting #193 - Austin, Texas, January 1999
Session 88. Astronomers and the Press
Special, Oral, Friday, January 8, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, Ballroom B

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[88.01] Science versus News: On the Cutting Edge

A. L. Kinney, V. French, R. Villard (STScI), S.P. Maran (GSFC)

This session is to aid communication between scientists and journalists, to motivate astronomers to be active in communicating their science to the public via the press, and to help both astronomers and journalists to understand the constraints under which the other group is operating.

The session consists of two talks of about 20 minutes, followed by a panel discussion.

The first talk is "What Makes a Topic News?" This segment, by Miles O'Brien of CNN News, takes the AAS audiences behind the scenes in the world of producing science news stories. --- What drives selection of assignments? How does the science reporter convince their editor to cover a story? What factors about television producing help and also hurt getting science subjects across to the public?

The second talk is "Public Knowledge on Science: The Growing Gap Between Scientists and the Taxpayer." This presentation by Jon Miller, a public opinion expert will emphasize the problems scientists and society, face in communicating to the public. --- What does the public know about science and scientific method? How much translation is required to communicate with the public to engage their interest without unacceptable compromise of scientific accuracy?

The final segment is a panel of both science journalists and astronomers moderated by Steve Maran. Together they will tackle a question that gets to the heart of the Science-Vs-News controversies, "When Should Results Go Public?" Published too soon, science is called "hype"; Published too late, it is no longer "news." Should all results be peer reviewed first, and is that a satisfactory prerequisite? Do scientists take self-serving advantage of the public interest by making announcements before results appear in journals? How do we address the public desire to experience science unfolding and to see real-time data such as planetary science missions? The panelists are Dr. David Helfand, from Columbia University, Dr. Bruce Margon, from the University of Washington, Mr. Thomas Siegfried, from The Dallas Daily News, Ms. Kathy Sawyer, from The Washington Post, Mr. John Noble Wilford from The New York Times, and Ms. Ann Kellan from CNN.

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