I'd love to hear from readers who are science journalists. PZ Myers has posted this story from one of his readers who's trying to start a career as a freelance science journalist:
When I submitted the article, just shy of the 800 words I was asked to write, the editor said that the published piece had to be shortened a little. A few weeks later I checked the publication and found my article reduced to 360 words. I wasn't happy, of course, but every journalist has dealt with this. However, when I began to read the piece I didn't recognize it as anything I had written. I became worried so I did a sentence by sentence comparison. To my complete horror, out of 360 words there was only one sentence in the published piece and 3 or 4 fragments of sentences I had actually written; and the article was published with my name on it! I cannot in good faith use this article in my portfolio. Even more distressing, there in the published piece was the incorrect statement about likening the inner ear in humans to the lateral line in fish.
How common is this? I can imagine having an editor cut down your piece and rewrite some of it. I can't imagine ever having something published under my name that was a) almost completely rewritten without my input and b) before I had a chance to see the final product. And 360 words? This blog post is just over 330 words. Is it really worth having a journalist put so much effort into researching a 360 word piece? What's the point in hiring a science journalist (as opposed to someone with no science training) if this is how things work? I know we've got some current and former journalists around here - what do you think?