The concept of the newspaper science section pretty much died a death in New Zealand a few years ago as the squeeze on newsroom resources saw specialist sections ditched in favour of running science stories in the paper’s general or “A” section.
Some saw that as a good thing, suggesting that cramming science stories into a “ghetto” in the paper meant it was just too easy to flick past that page and miss the science altogether. However, I’m of the view that devoting a fair amount of newspaper real estate to science each week is an acceptance of the importance of science to society and of the desire of the public to read about science-related issues.
That’s why I applaud the Dominion Post’s editor Bernadette Courtney for including a weekly science page in the re-vamped Dom. There will also be a technology page featured later in the week which I consider a similarly well-thought out move given the pervasiveness of technology in our lives.
The Dom’s science page will be anchored by long-time science columnist Bob Brockie who writes this week on Dr. Rebecca Priestley’s new book Mad on Radium – a history of “nuclear New Zealand”. The main piece is a thought-provoking wire story originally run by the Washington Post. Hopefully a good dose of local content will feature on this page – there are certainly enough science-related issues worthy of attention from the Dom’s own writers.
The move follows a push to expand and revamp Stuff.co.nz science coverage, one that started shakily, but seems to have found a consistent stride. i expect to see similarly increased attention to science coverage from APN with the launch of the “compact” New Zealand Herald next week.
It’s great to see the media recognising the importance and relevance of science to society in these sorts of moves and its also confirmation that science stories rate well, something online editors have been telling us for years as they seek to supply a mix of articles that generate maximum eyeballs and clicks.