Friday, April 19, 2002

NPR Science Friday is the only big show on NPR about science. But it's not always directly about science. I have this complaint about most mainstream science reporting: an article may only indirectly be related to science, yet it takes up space in the limited-quota "science reporting" section. Health, safety and environmental issues get lumped under science even when there's no new science involved, just some current issue or debate to spark interest.

And the limited quota for science does bug me. There are fewer limits on coverage of disasters, politics, arts or cultural news. NPR again shows this: you'll hear interviews with musicians, writers, public figures of all kinds, but rarely scientists, mathematicians, or engineers, outside of Science Friday. The archetypical exception is the scientist who has just written a mainstream book -- and Terry Gross will likely question her interviewee about the scandal around the book about the science, not directly about the science.

Here are some NPR Science Friday programs from the last year, and what I thought they were actually about from the descriptions. Not always science, even with a fairly broad definition of science including engineering and technology applications.

  • Apr 19/02: Nuclear Safety. Subject: engineering, nuclear policy.
  • Apr 12/02: Health care issues facing rural Americans. Subject: health policy
  • Apr 05/02: World Trade Center rebuilding. Subject: engineering.
  • Mar 29/02: Drought/ El Nino. Subject: The Weather.
  • Mar 22/02: Future Evolution. Subject: Speculation, science fiction
  • Mar 15/02: New Automotive Technologies. Subject: Technology, automotive industry
  • Mar 01/02: Mammography debate Subject: health policy
  • Feb 22/02: Nuclear Security. Subject: Nuclear policy
  • Feb 22/02: Richard Feynman/'Q.E.D.'. Subject: Drama
  • Feb 08/02: Heisenberg Correspondence. Subject: Biography (of scientists), political history
  • Feb 01/02: Everyday Design. Subject: industrial design

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