May 10, 2014 12:15 pm

What’s wrong with science journalism? Find out Sunday from Neil deGrasse Tyson and Miles O’Brien

Photo of Miles O'Brien aat Kennedy Space Center in Florida, courtesy of

Do you remember that time when you turned on CNN a few years ago to watch the space shuttle launch and instead of the familiar face of Miles O’Brien there was some other reporter covering the launch? Do you remember how disappointed you were?

Well, I do. I don’t remember the specific flight, or who the replacement was, but I remember that empty feeling.

You know who else remembers that moment?

Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In this week’s episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil talks about that disappointment with none other than veteran science reporter Miles O’Brien.

And that’s not all. The two get into an in-depth discussion about what’s wrong with science journalism, and you couldn’t ask for two more experienced perspectives on the issue. Reporters are constantly interviewing Neil about the latest science news, and, as you know from listening to StarTalk Radio, Neil’s no slouch on the other side of the microphone, either. You may be surprised to hear his and Miles’ perspectives on the skills of some science reporters, and their smarts.

They also talk about the business side of reporting on science news, from the influence of money to a lack of respect for science stories that pervades newsrooms. Miles discusses the impact of “The Foxification of News” and journalists who make themselves the center of the story. And he talks about why CNN dissolved their science division… and the perhaps not-so-shocking reason they started one in the first place.

Neil and comic co-host Chuck Nice dive into the politicization of science, the problems with news in general, and even Larry King.

And Miles shares the story of how he went from being a history major to finagling his way into CNN. He also talks about his most memorable stories, including his coverage of the Columbia shuttle disaster and John Glenn’s return to space with his relatively unknown co-anchor, Walter Cronkite. (The other journalist whose departure from space coverage stands out in my mind.)

Since the recording of this episode, Miles O’Brien has temporarily landed back on CNN. I found out when I turned to CNN the other day to play that popular game, “Are they still covering the missing airplane?” There, on the screen, was Miles O’Brien, who was credited as CNN’s Aviation Analyst.

Maybe his return is a good sign for science journalism in general, and CNN in particular.

Of course, he still won’t be covering any more space shuttle missions.

Oh well.

Reporting on Science (Part 1) will be on our website and on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and TuneIn this Sunday night, May 11, at 7:00 PM ET.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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