Many science journalists and public information officers have questions about some of the content partnerships and sponsorships that have emerged this past year among news outlets and government agencies and businesses. The National Science Foundation, for example, sponsors online content for such publications as US News & World Report, Discover magazine and LiveScience.com that is usually written by public information officers for research institutions. The cover of Popular Science‘s July issue included an alternative cover sponsored by General Electric that was viewable via a Webcam. In September, the San Jose Mercury News reported that a consortium of 35 U.S. research universities launched Futurity.org, which will “feed their own accounts of their discoveries directly to top news sites on the Internet … [forming] what is essentially their own nonprofit wire service.”
Often, the justification for these partnerships is to get science news to the public during a time of limited resources. In the past few years, and accelerated by the recession, we have seen more newspaper industry lay-offs, the elimination of science sections or the closing of newspapers and magazines and overall, massive journalism job losses.
With cosponsorship from the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), Science Writers in New York (SWINY) is organizing this panel to discuss: How concerned should we be about these partnerships and similar initiatives? Are they isolated incidents, or a trend? How do they relate to today’s economy and media contraction? Is it more challenging in a recession to maintain ethics, including the classic church/state lines between publicists, advertisers and journalists? Can we still offer strong journalism when we enter these kinds of partnerships and sponsorships with government, industry and academia? Are these relationships transparent enough, or do we need new standards for news outlets that enter such arrangements, or should these never occur at all?
Please join us for this interesting evening.