The Scientific Journalism Formula

In a near-per­fect par­ody of sci­ence report­ing in the pop­u­lar press, Mar­tin Robbins, The Lay Sci­ent­ist, cre­ated “a news web­site art­icle about a sci­entif­ic paper”.

In the stand­first I will make a fairly obvi­ous pun about the sub­ject mat­ter before pos­ing an inane ques­tion I have no inten­tion of really answer­ing: is this an import­ant sci­entif­ic find­ing? […]

This is a sub-head­ing that gives the impres­sion I am about to add use­ful con­text. […]

To pad out this sec­tion I will include a vari­ety of inane facts about the sub­ject of the research that I gathered by Googling the top­ic and read­ing the Wiki­pe­dia art­icle that appeared as the first link.

I will pre­face them with “it is believed” or “sci­ent­ists think” to avoid giv­ing the impres­sion of passing any sort of per­son­al judge­ment on even the most inane facts.

You get the idea, I’m sure, but it’s well worth look­ing at the full piece as the spoof also acts as a guide to why we should avoid clichéd, for­mu­laic writ­ing: it quickly gets bor­ing and pre­dict­able.

In a fol­low-up to his par­ody, Rob­bins looks at why this tired for­mula has come into play and what can be done about it.

via Kot­tke

Also: Are stor­ies with loaded-ques­tion head­lines pop­u­lar?