Only the Republican got attention, just like only Michele Bachmann got attention for using an anecdote as evidence about a vaccine during the last presidential campaign, though Senator Barack Obama said he was unconvinced that vaccines didn't cause autism during his campaign in 2008 and it got almost zero coverage elsewhere.
Is the fix in? Well, yeah. In a culture where we accept that having only 30% women in some science fields leads to stereotype threat and discrimination, having 99% of science media vote one way would certainly lead to a lot of groupthink and demonizing. And it does.
Does it matter? Really matter, as in to the public? I am unconvinced. Science journalism jobs have disappeared because science journalists stopped being trusted guides for the public, they stopped asking awkward questions of people they wanted to politically support and then, to a lesser extent, they chose to be cheerleaders for science and defend it rather than report it. It hasn't mattered, independent media like Science 2.0 and lots and lots of blogs by scientists have taken up that slack. Adult science literacy has tripled since I was in college while science journalism has been in decline - the qualifier, and the concern for moderate people, is that the literacy is about science that matches political beliefs.
But science media is much different now than when Science 2.0 started. If you follow the people debunking a lot of anti-science claims today, it is primarily scientists and they don't give a hoot about the political party they are insulting - a far cry from the days when Scienceblogs.com ruled the land and you weren't writing there unless it was about Religion and Republicans. As I noted in Science Left Behind, scientists are mostly liberal - and that is good. Science is about understanding and maybe breaking the laws of nature, that can't be conservative. It's peer review that is conservative. True liberals in science are going to call it how they see it, it is pesky progressives who are going to rationalize and circle the wagons around their pet beliefs.
Keith Kloor at Discover asked When Science Gets Politicized, Do Journalists Play Favorites? and he picked the perfect person to respond: Dr. Alex Berezow, a microbiologist and my co-author on Science Left Behind. Berezow is that rare breed who is politically agnostic, comes from the world of research and now lives in the world of media.
Kloor, like Berezow, is not part of cookie-cutter science media, so he isn't out to debunk the idea that only Republicans are anti-science, he wants to see if that's a fair characterization, since it is just about everywhere. Anyone would ask about the political leaning of the person answering the questions and Kloor does that of Berezow. His answer didn't surprise me because if you asked me, I wouldn't know for sure, even after writing a book together. I picture him as more socially conservative than me and more fiscally liberal than me, but even then we are talking about degrees. He is on Team Science and his positions tend to change with how they impact that. Sometimes Democrats are the bad guys, sometimes Republicans are.
Kloor would like to know how science journalism can regain the public's trust. It isn't easy due to the issues I noted above. But it can happen. Berezow responds:
We need better science journalism, for sure. There’s now a trend toward more and more scientists becoming bloggers and writers, and that is absolutely fantastic. As harsh as this might sound, we need fewer English majors in science journalism and more people with actual scientific training. If a journalist can’t tell a bacterium from a virus, or doesn’t understand the methodological differences between the rigorous “hard” sciences and the “softer” social sciences, then maybe he shouldn’t be writing about science. If journalists can’t get the story straight, then how can we expect the public to do so? Science journalism needs to get its house in order first.If you are on the far left or the right right, the middle is always the fringe, so for science media Berezow is certainly to the right of the mainstream. As is Kloor. And me. The real struggle is finding three more people that are in the middle.
When Science Gets Politicized, Do Journalists Play Favorites? By Keith Kloor, Discover