A publicity-driven research news service made a splash this week, introducing a consortium model for distributing information about discoveries made by dozens of universities while also sparking more hand-wringing about the contraction of science journalism.
The service is called Futurity, and it includes a Web site where research news from some of the nation’s top universities, such as Yale, Princeton and the University of California, Berkeley, is aggregated. Futurity also acts somewhat like a news wire service, as it will provide stories to Yahoo News, Google News, MySpace and Twitter, among others, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Yahoo will treat Futurity stories as news, (though many journalists and news outlets would not) and include its content with other news items from more traditional sources, such as the Associated Press and The New York Times, the Mercury News reported.
Once submitted by university staff, Futurity stories will be edited again for newsworthiness and to make them appeal to lay readers, Bill Murphy, one of the project’s cofounders and vice president for communications at the University of Rochester, told the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).
Futurity is aimed at keeping up with the proliferation of online news and content, such as blogs and social media, according to its Web site. It also is trying to fill the news gap created by the recent reduction in science, medical and other research coverage in newspapers and magazines and on TV. Today, fewer than 20 U.S. newspapers have science sections, whereas 20 years ago, nearly 150 did, according to the Mercury News. CNN eliminated its science and technology team late last year, in another sign of the times.
Jenny Leonard, based at the University of Rochester and a former communications staffer there, is in charge of editing Futurity, and told the CJR that she serves in “an editorial role,” but that Futurity’s content isn’t quite journalism.
“The intention of the site really is to share information,” she told the CJR. “It wasn’t meant to be a replacement for the type of reporting and analysis which is so essential to covering science and research completely.”
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