A consortium of the nation’s top research universities have established a nonprofit science news wire service that they say is needed because of cutbacks in science coverage by the mainstream media.

Among the 35 universities involved are some of the biggest names in research, including Stanford, Yale and University of California, Berkeley, according to this San Jose Mercury News story. Officials at UC San Diego and San Diego State University have checked out the site, but haven’t yet signed up.

From the Mercury News story:

“We’ve been really concerned. Our preference would be to have the level of coverage of science and research that we enjoyed for decades,” said Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president for university communications at Stanford.

“But the major news organizations haven’t had the resources to provide that independent, objective look at what we are doing. It’s been declining.” …

CNN eliminated its entire science and technology team. In February The Boston Globe closed its science section, an action the Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle had taken several years earlier.

Lapin said without as many science reporters, the universities were looking for new ways to keep the public informed.

Participating universities include Princeton, Yale, Duke, the University of Chicago and UC-Irvine. Every week, each sends several news releases and articles written by university staff members to an editor at the University of Rochester. The editor then highlights stories on a website, futurity.org to showcase the research.

The stories, however, are basically press releases put out by the universities, and don’t include voices that might be skeptical of the research being highlighted, as news stories often do.

Rex Graham, UCSD’s director of media relations, said he was impressed with the website, but still needs to find out more about it. “It’s nice, but show me the traffic,” he said.

Graham also lamented the demise of science sections, but said there is still an “enormous curiosity” among the public when it comes to science discoveries. He said that the number of niche online publications devoted to science has exploded in recent years.

SDSU spokeswoman Gina Jacobs had some of the same sentiments, saying that she would not want a website such as this to replace science coverage in the traditional media.

“I would still want the traditional media to cover my stories first, because that is where most people still like to get their news,” Jacobs said.


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