To the best of my knowledge newspapers belonging to universities are always in short supply of science writers. For example, the university I attend does not have a science column and never has as far as I know. When talking with the people who ran the magazine, they seemed extremely interested in attaining a person who could provide the newspaper with a daily or weekly science column, but it seems that no one wants to take the job. This seems a bit paradoxical to me.
Primarily the paradox arises because universities, above all other places, are the primary institutes that lodge scientific research. Such prestigious universities as Harvard and Princeton are known for their research and are considered research universities. This means that faculty members are given high expectations to conduct research and output a certain number of papers per year in addition to their teaching responsibilities.
So, this begs a very important question. If universities have the largest volume of scientific research, then why on earth do university newspapers lack in science news? Some possible explanations include the following:
1) Not all scientific research is important and groundbreaking enough to be considered newsworthy in a newspaper’s eyes.
2) People who tend to major in communications and write for school newspapers generally are not interested in science, hence their focus in media.
3) Some science is difficult to understand even for a science major. Science writing requires writing in all fields of science, which requires some basic understanding for a lot of different and unrelated fields.
4) Usually someone who is interested enough in science will major in science, of which writing is not necessarily a major focus or desire. Undergraduate science majors enjoy solving problems as opposed to writing papers, I would imagine.
With all of these reasons going against the chances for science research to appear in university newspapers, I suppose it’s not a huge surprise you can’t find it. But, just think of all the wonderful research that is not being conveyed to some of the highest educated people in the country – college students.
Usually the problem with science writing is that it must be extremely simplified so that an average person of average intelligence may understand it. This usually means that the level of vocabulary and writing used is at a 6th grade level. But, with college newspapers people may afford a slightly higher level of writing and explanation, simply because the audience is of a higher intelligence. Students can understand the scientific method and various other logical thought processes that go into solving a problem, simply because they are subjected to it on a daily basis. Even a history essay still requires logical thought and written execution of events in an original and interesting style, and lectures are a prime example of logical explanations and ordering of complex material.
Perhaps university newspapers don’t advertise their need for science writers. Maybe, if they emphasized how much they desire a science column, people would be more willing to voluntarily contribute. After all, science research can be extremely interesting. Maybe even more so than the football team’s win over the weekend, but probably not.