Wednesday, May 13, 2009
You Can't Tweet Science
One little piece of information I missed during my weeks without obsessive news content was the late-April gossip about a shakeup at the venerable Scientific American, in which both editor in chief John Rennie (above) and publisher Steven Yee left the magazine. While Rennie denies it, rumor is rampant that the board wants to take the magazine further into the Discover domain of consumer-aimed, Twitter-feed-led pop science. Shudder.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that Rennie didn't walk on water, though he wrote damned fine editorials and tried to hold the line against the superficiality tide sweeping science publications. SA had gone a bit crazy in brand-extension, launching bimonthly publications on the mind, and on special topics, that almost made the wider Scientific American brand as difficult to pace as The Economist. Hell, it was during the Rennie/Yee tenure that SA broadened into science cruises at sea, f'cryin' out loud ("not that there's anything wrong with that").
But I can see the 140-character handwriting on the Twitter wall now for insta-science feeds from our friends at SA. Ugh. Thankfully, Lost creator J.J. Abrams has spoken out in an essay in Wired against instant-gratification culture, and my dear friend and fellow blogger Ruth Mowry has reminded us that Twitter feeds of The New York Times were never a good idea. Scientific American, are you listening? Science can be fun and stimulating, to be sure, but it must also be serious, lengthy, and loaded with content.