I took a pause from this column to think about its direction. Over the last year, rapid fire changes have been happening, and the pace may increase this year. I intentionally slowed down over the Christmas break. I had time to critically analyze the fact that I started reading the paper at night. The Editors explained a change in format, yet until I thought about it, I did not understand the impact of the change. For most of my adult life, I never left the house without reading at least one paper until recently. What’s going on? I consciously examined how and when I get my news now. News even local news is ubiquitous. I get the news I need very quickly in the morning now. I get my local news in many ways. When I get home after a long day, I want to spend time with my community paper. That’s what’s different. The reporting is better than ever, and I enjoy my fellow columnists.
A growing function of print media is to drive readers to their digital websites and mobile platforms. During the analysis phase of my pause, I wanted to understand where this column fits, and to understand how I will proceed. I like a paper. I work on a computer all day. I get lots of news on my desk top I have to read. The paper says home. Relax. My column will still focus on science and technology, yet, I will write it with the idea there are different consumers of this information with different habits. I will explore ways to tell the stories of science and technology, with citations that take you to other platforms so you can read related information.
When I first started writing, citing sources was essential. Publications wanted to retain a reputation for fact based reporting as well as limit reporting bias, and avoid libel and defamation suits. Facts mattered. In science, a law is a law if it is true always. Facts matter. The faster pace of information flow helps the scientific community do better research and share their results or lack thereof. Amgen, a large biotech firm responsible for drugs like Enbrel which treats arthritis, and Procrit that treats anemia, is leading a new movement to share research results. On February 4th, the journal Nature published results of Amgen’s data indicating failures on three efforts to confirm research findings on cancer drugs. Amgen published their results a newly launched channel hosted by F100Research.
When other scientists tried to replicate Amgen’s research results they couldn’t. This approach will encourage others in industry and academia to publish their own replication attempts. The website will publish results quickly, and thus help get to the bottom of work that other labs are having trouble verifying. This is a positive trend in our world, enabled by rapid dissemination of knowledge through multi-media sites. Bottom line none of us want to take a drug that does not work or may do harm. Now you can follow along with the scientific community. Facts matter.
I’ve been reading Tomas Freidman’s new book, Thank You for Being Late. He is a columnist for the New York Times. While rushing to a meeting, Mr. Freidman met a Nigerian parking attendant who is also a budding columnist. The Nigerian recognized Friedman in the parking garage and asked for advice on writing his column. This exchange in a parking garage between a famous columnist and a Nigerian parking attendant columnist is worth a pause. How does a Nigerian parking attendant write a column? Where does he publish it and who is his audience? I immediately identified with the Nigerian. Friedman agreed to call his parking attendant, and this chance meeting gave his new book its title. They did met in and started to work, together. Friedman’s advised, whatever you write, shed light on a topic so that more people might understand it better. Or, share your values and they may create a little heat in the heart and minds of your readers.
I get it. I work to do that with the topics I cover. I hope I shed light on topics like gravitational waves. And share my values about the importance of understanding fundamental science, and current technology. Now I see why Sound Off works. It brings heat to a number of topics, and light to others. There are many project, people and programs that deserve light and heat, and many are reported well and factually in this paper. There are so many ways a story touches people, and different ways a news organization gets information to their public. I look forward to sharing heat and light with you in 2017.