Tim Radford: Life as a simple scribe
8 March 2011
On 19 January, science journalist Tim Radford came to Imperial to give a lecture about his varied career. Andrew Purcell, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication, reports on the event:
“From author Primo Levi to sperm whale autopsies and from Dante to urine disposal in space; the range of topics covered in Tim Radford’s journalistic career, which has lasted over half a century, is both enthralling and awe-inspiring.
Those in the lecture theatre, who, like me, were hoping for a few insights into the world of science journalism, were certainly not left disappointed.
Tim likened the challenge of writing about science to “writing about politics and having to explain who the Prime Minister is every time”.
He also cautioned against the dangers of “thinking you can get away with reporting something boring, just because it’s science”.
In his 25-point manifesto for science journalism, which was published on The Guardian website to coincide with this event, Tim warned: “the classic error in journalism is to overestimate what the reader knows and underestimate the reader’s intelligence”.
Whilst the bulk of the lecture consisted of Tim regaling us with tales of his early journalistic career – I, for one, spent much of the lecture straining forward on the edge of my seat – the event was perhaps most notable for the candour with which he tackled journalism’s somewhat thornier issues.
Towards the end of the lecture, he declared, with as straight a face as I’ve ever seen the line delivered: “Journalism is about defending democracy – that’s what we’re here for”.
This was, in fact, one of the rare occasions where the ingenuousness of this claim did not seem in doubt.”
To read Tim’s 25- point manifest for science journalism see: http://bit.ly/fK2fwy