What if political scientists covered the news?

Any scientist who has ever written for the popular press has experienced the tension between the academic’s natural inclination to say “here’s what we know, here’s what we might know, here’s what we don’t know” and the demands of journalistic convention that you offer something more like “A says X, B says Y, I have a Ph.D. and here’s who’s right.”  Christopher Beam has a brilliant comic take on this in Slate (which, by the way, is the most open of all general-interest magazines to the academic way of speaking.)

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5 thoughts on “What if political scientists covered the news?

  1. Terence Tao says:

    Nicely done (though the author did mix up “affect” and “effect”. But perhaps this was intentional?).

    I’m struggling to find a term for this type of “What if X was written by Y?” article, in which a literary task usually performed by one profession is instead performed by another. It’s not quite satire (the humour is observational rather than satirical), it’s not quite deconstruction, and it’s not an attempt at balance or objectivity. Apart from numerous examples from the Onion, another nice example of the genre is

    http://www.shrovetuesdayobserved.com/flight.html

    In any event, we need a many more instances of these, though it would be difficult to do well – one needs genuine expertise in both X and Y. (I’d struggle to do justice to, say, “What if a physics article was written by a mathematician?” or vice versa, though I’d love to read a good answer to that question.)

  2. Richard Kent says:

    That’s great. I love how Quint learns a valuable lesson about friendship.

  3. Jeff says:

    Wow. That was comedy gold.

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