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Re: New finds



Steve Brusatte commented:
<I think science CAN be explained to the public, but a newspaper is not the
best place to do it.  First off, most newspapers don't have reporters who
concentrate on science.  Second of all, (most) newspapers are printed daily
and often cannot go into as much depth.  Third, space restrictions cut down
on the length of articles.  I doubt that the French press could have gone
into much depth on the evolutionary relationships of the Titanosauria
because of space limitations.  Now, a science magazine is different.>

I think you're leaving out the most important reason:  the readership is not
interested in technical aspects of a subject.  If the French press had 'gone
into much greater depth on the evolutionary relationships of the
Titanosauria', they would have had to explain that the techniques used to
produce these inferences are... controversial.  More important, the verbiage
would have been ignored.
Articles are entertainment, in competition with other forms of
entertainment, as discussed in an earlier post.
Further, it is possible to leave out technical elements, references to
logics other than everyday verbal logic.  Give you an example:
Dinogeorge commented:
<To convert any cladogram into a "linear model," or Hennigian comb as it's
sometimes called, simply single out
one lineage to be the spine of the comb and arrange all the other lineages
as "side branches" of the selected lineage.>

This could be expressed:
Any single species has one and only one ancestral species at any point in
its evolutionary history.  A diagram of the evolution of any contemporary
species will show a straight line with offshoots from the main stem.

This isn't newspaper prose, but notice that the logic is self-contained,
without reference to any external concept, declarative, and is based on a
description of a simple picture rather than asserting conclusions about
evolution itself.
That to me is the key to good popular writing.  It's not dumbed down; I'd
argue that sometimes avoiding external references and pre-conceptions is
considered dumb.  I consider it well organized.  You can add to the base
concept anything that you consider valuable, explaining clearly and fully,
in a balanced way.

I'm not defending errors; I'm arguing for a more inclusive definition of
success.