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Re: Taking control of the documentary situation, an immodest proposal

So are you suggesting a "Scientific Honesty in Television"
organization?  Given the state of science education in the US and the
public's general misunderstandings of scientific material, doesn't the
NCSE do this already?  Perhaps they are the venue with which we could
work through?


Lee Hall
Paleontology Undergraduate
Museum of the Rockies
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT

On Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 1:39 PM,  <gsp1954@aol.com> wrote:
> Back when I was a lad anything to do with dinosaurs on the telly was so
> rare that one went for years craving for anything to show up. It was wonderful
> when in 77 NOVA broadcast "The Hot Blooded Dinosaurs," the best
> dinodocumentary ever. Its been pretty much downhill since.
> I think almost everyone agrees that the situation has gotten out of hand,
> in which the producers of dinosaur documentaries are egregiously exploiting
> and abusing paleontologists on so many levels. I pretty much dread being
> asked to in some way participate in documentaries because I'm tired of being
> taken advantage of in assorted ways. I rarely watch them because I wish to 
> keep
> my TV in working order.
> The problem is with both the broadcasters who pay for the programs and the
> producers who supply them. The former in particular are interested only in
> producing product that will make money in what is a very, very difficult
> financial market. Because there are so many channels to watch the audience for
> any given program is too small to generate much revenue, so the programs have
> to be done on the cheal (one comment that the producers have lots of money
> to kill is errant). Presenting accurate science is way down the list.
> Remember that most of the channels produce programs promoting the reality of 
> alien
> visitors, the predictions of Nostrodemus, ghostbusters etc.; their is no
> Science Channel (the best channel in this regard is NatGeo, which continues to
> largely adhere is a science based worldview). The hands on produces vary in
> quality. Some may want to do a good job but are pressured to meet market
> demands. Others should not be allowed to produce serious scientific
> programming.
> In principle it is possible to take control of the situation. How? By
> getting organized. As it is the producers exploit us by dealing with us
> individually, and making promises that they are going to do THIS program 
> right, and
> then doing what they damn well please until we get suckered the next time
> around. Researchers would need to agree to not participate in a program unless
> it has undergone a vetting process by a qualified group. If enough paleos do
> so this would severely constrain the producers who need talking heads and
> the legitimacy of at least claiming to have consulted experts. The publicity
> of announcing such a system would itself make the news and in effect "shame"
> the broadcasters and producers. Such a system would not need to be
> permanent, run it for long enough to see if it works, and then drop the 
> arrangement
> until the producers get out of line and revive it as necessary.
> Whether such a system is practical is open to question. How would it be
> run, would enough researchers adhere to the rules to make it effective, etc?
> And it is a pain in the butt to have to do something in the first place. I
> only bring it up because the situation is so bad (I wonder if scientists in
> other fields have similar complaints, or are dinosaurs a special problem).
> One possibility is to have a set of principles for documentaries written
> up, and researchers can sign it. Producers would have to agree to the terms
> before signers could participate. The more I think about this idea as at least
> a minimal step the more I like it. For example it can include a clause that
> programs will not state an idea is fact unless this is not controversial
> (such as hadrosaurs were herbivores, while hadrosaurs protecting their young
> from predators would be qualified as plausible but not proven). The sheer
> press publicity should act as a wake up call to the producers that the
> scientific community has had it and they need to shape up. Or maybe something 
> more
> organized is called for. Maybe try the first and if that does not work try a
> more formal arrangement.
> GSPaul</HTML>