Attack of the Killer Super Extreme End of the World

May 16th, 2005

I teach a lab that gets out late some evenings, and last week happened to contain one of those evenings. I made my way home to a large glass of ice cold gin sometime around 11pm, and turned on the TV to decompress a bit before bed. Lo’ and behold the Discover channel was actually broadcasting something resembling science programming… I say resembling because the programs I proceeded to watch were more exaggerational sensationalism than science.

Did I watch them, entranced, until 1am? You bet I did. I was enraptured by the Humanzee… half-chimp/half-human? Only his DNA would tell… entralled as I watched stories of feral children left to develop either alone or with animals after they were abandoned or neglected by their parents.

I have been considering these “documentaries” all weekend. Is this what science television is coming to? I’d like to someday be involved in creating science programming for television and radio. Will I have to submit myself to selling pseudo-science or demeaning science in the name of entertainment?

I see myself falling prey to the “info-tainment” curse in my own radio program, and try to extract myself from its lure. Day after day I read science headlines that include words full of imagery inspiring views of science as controversial, dangerous, sexy. Science can be all of these things, sometimes all three at once, but it definitely is not any of them most of the time. It is difficult to present the straight story without sprucing it up a bit to make it more appealing to listeners.

There is a fine line that must be walked by people in the media industry, science is just a subset of the larger issue. The news must be reported, but not made so dry that people tune out. Yet, at the same time, it should not be made so sensational that it becomes a parody of itself. I hope that I walk that line, and find the balance that presents science as something people can enjoy, rather than fear, and yet still understand as important to their lives.

Next week on This Week in Science: the truth about everything as told by one who knows. Argh. Maybe I’ll just be a pirate instead.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind