Popular science is dying out and science journalism continues to shrink

Popular science is dying out and science journalism continues to shrink

In May 2022, Popular Science Celebrated the magazine’s 150th anniversary: ​​1,747 issues, along with a collection of stories and videos posted online. The magazine’s staff has put together a special anniversary package, revisiting historical stories from its archives about superconductors and the germ theory of disease as well as highlighting women and people of color whose contributions to science in the past have not been recognized by the magazine. In a letter to readers, Corinne Euzio, the editor-in-chief at the time, spoke about the matter Popular ScienceHeritage and forecasting its future: A publication that strives to “meet people where they are, and introduce them to scientific concepts through the lens of their daily experiences.”

This month, a 151-year-old legacy Popular Science As readers know, it ends. The magazine has undergone major changes in recent years, ending its print edition in 2020 and switching to a digital quarterly in 2021. But now the magazine will cease publication altogether, and has been shuttered by its owner, private equity-funded Recurrent Ventures. PopSci.com will continue to publish posts containing news, reviews and podcasts With a skeleton of five employees. In an eerie echo of 2015, she wanted to focus on video.

The first hint of this latest cancellation came to employees in an October 27 email from Recurrent Ventures CEO Andrew Perlman, who expressed a plan to “strip unnecessary complexity” and expand video efforts. When employees expressed understandable concern about what exactly those phrases meant, they were assured that their jobs were not in jeopardy, according to Employee A, a former PopSci employee who was part of the layoffs and signed a nondisclosure agreement. On November 13, a majority Popular Science‘My staff, 13 people in all, were abruptly laid off in one five-minute Zoom call. Employees received a call to a meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, where they were told they no longer had jobs and were almost immediately kicked out of Slack, according to Employee B, a former PopSci employee who was also part of the layoffs. The employees were not unionized, and all full-time employees of color were included in the layoffs.

It is not news to anyone that the jobs and livelihoods of many media workers remain in the hands of fickle, incompetent and greedy venture capitalists, and that the best-case scenario for closed media outlets is that they will later be bought out and revived, if they are very lucky. , like a shell of what they once were. But the end Popular Science It arrives at the tail end of a rash of layoffs and closures in science journalism, as Emma Roth reports in The Verge. National Geographic, which is owned by Disney, laid off the remainder of its writers in June. This fall, Gizmodo laid off its only remaining climate employee, and CNBC dismantled its climate office. Like many other scientific publications, Popular Science Employee A noted that the company saw a spike in readership when the pandemic hit and science news became life-saving. “Who is devaluing and devaluing science journalism? That’s the frustrating part,” they said. “It’s not about the people. We’ve had loyal readers and podcast followers at PopSci, and it’s been very rewarding.”

From her imagination, Popular Science It aims to be a magazine for the people – a magazine that publishes science for the general public. This narrative style “made the publication trustworthy and accessible,” said Purbita Saha, a former deputy editor who was among those laid off. dissident. “It also helped people who don’t regularly read academic journals, follow unexpected policy changes, or watch over-the-top tech press conferences feel empowered.” (Disclosure: Soha and I worked together at Audubon.) The magazine also has a dedicated DIY section to help readers learn new skills and experiment.

Loss Popular Science It also means a significant decline in publications where budding science journalists can learn the craft and build their careers, and where freelancers can make a relatively respectable rate of $1 to $1.50 a word, Saha said.

“We had writing interns every spring, summer and fall, three science journalists who would now have no place to get their feet wet in the field,” said Chelsea B. Coombs, a former social media editor. in Popular ScienceWho was among those dismissed. “There aren’t many places left to do science journalism.”

The loss of any scientific journal is also a loss for science itself. “Where will scientists get public investment in their research?” Coombs asked, adding that early-career researchers especially benefit from having their work covered in a publication like this Popular Science. Science journalism has arguably never been more important, as the harsh impacts of climate change hit the planet faster than many scientists expected, and the biodiversity crisis threatens all aspects of life on Earth.

These issues will continue to be covered on PopSci.com in some form. The remaining news staff does a variety of original reporting and compilations. but Popular Science, the magazine, was a place where employees could publish long-form narratives and investigative articles. “Closing this means we lose insightful storytelling that delved into climate solutions, medical discoveries, deep space exploration, animal wisdom, and just amazing experiments and inventions,” Saha said. Reported features better capture the massive, interconnected scope of the crises taking place on the planet and the innovations that are moving science forward—the kinds of stories that science journalism has become accustomed to valuing.

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