Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bonokoski and "Screaming Headlines" of Science

Mark Bonokoski, a Toronto Sun journalist, wrote this absurd piece yesterday on why are all those unmuzzled scientists not barking, or whatever.

The entire article doesn't seem to have much of a point beyond being grumpy, and can be summed up by some of it's last paragraphs:
So what is it now? It has been almost 10 months since the election, and almost as long since the muzzles on Canada’s 4,000 scientists were removed by the Liberals.

Surely there is something these scientists can collectively say to qualify their years of outcry, and produce at least one screaming headline during the dog days of summer.
Bonokoski is a news guy, and it shows, because science is not about producing "screaming headlines" - his job is to do that, it is not science's. Science is more often harmed by the idea that they must produce headlines to legitimize their work.

To put it simply, most efforts and work in scientific research go into either reaffirming things we already know (which isn't sexy enough for headlines) or testing theories, often unsuccessfully (which isn't as exciting as if they are "proven") - yet all of it is vital work. If you box scientists into getting out "screaming headlines," you're only hurting the quality of research being done, because funding becomes tied to whoever can interest the most editors. That is not the best way to ensure science is done and we actually learn something, it's done to help someone's bottom line.

Besides, the issue with Harper's silence of federal scientists wasn't simply about producing headlines and releasing info the media, though that was a big issue - it was also about being able to share data among each other, about the actual focus of funding for research, and of course about the government actually heeding their advice on scientific issues. The Harper government pressed down on the scientific community with a weighted hand often because it didn't like what it heard out of it. Bonokoski only saw part of that in relation to his own job, so imagine how much pressure would've been felt for the people actually employed by the former government.

Which, by the way, should've be enough for him to have scrapped the entire article because of how truly awful and stupid those related experiences were. Bonokoski and other Sun conservatives always crow about government bureaucracy, but in that article alone he doesn't treat it very seriously does he.

As to whether or not Canadian scientists actually are producing headlines, I think the better question is why  Bonokoski isn't out there finding them. These people haven't stopped publishing new data and findings, Canadian scientists constantly put out papers. There's also the fact that a lot of federal scientists probably produce reports in house for ministries, not public consumption.

But all it takes is a Google search or simply reaching out. Bonokoski is the journalist here complaining about the lack of headlines - yet how many probably await him? I've found plenty with the first link in a Google search.

Ridiculous to complain about something that is your own fault, certainly not very conservative!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes, Mark Bonokoski, second runner-up in the Geraldo Rivera lookalike contest. A "journalist"? That's a bit of a stretch for a guy whose career consists of stints with the Calgary Herald and Windsor Star before settling in for a 41-year stay with the Sun chain. But he has, over the decades, also contributed something to Readers Digest. No Pulitzer-grade stuff there.

    Now he's morphed into the old man sitting in the rocker on the front porch yelling at the future to get the fuck off his lawn.