Investigating medical malpractice south of the border isn’t the typical winter break for most students. But that’s exactly where Noah Barron found himself last year after hearing rumors of a wave of botched plastic surgeries for U.S. citizens who drove to Tijuana for elective procedures.
The truth, he learned, wasn’t nearly as bad as what the rumors led him to believe.
Barron, a print journalism master’s degree candidate who plans a career in scientific journalism, has learned that reporting – especially science reporting – requires intense fact-checking and interviews of multiple sources.
“The worst thing you can do as a science reporter is do drive-by reporting,” he says. The danger lies in the fact that a non-dedicated or untrained science reporter easily can be fooled into writing something that is just not true.
“As journalists, we are taught here at Annenberg that balance is very important,” says Barron. “That’s almost always true, but sometimes balance is a pitfall when it comes to science reporting. Sometimes there is a vast weight of scientific evidence on one side or the other and you can’t give equal footing to an opinion on science that has been proven false.”
He says now is a good time to be a science journalist, with stem cell research, cloning, global warming, alternative fuels and other scientific issues constantly in the headlines.
“The way we as journalists decide to talk about science is going to set the tone for the debate in society,” Barron says. “The vocabulary we choose and the way we frame certain questions is going to really affect the way those conversations are approached at the dinner tables across America.”back to top