The Challenge of Public Dissemination

6 thoughts on “The Challenge of Public Dissemination”

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Kristina Killgrove (and thank you all for your pingbacks, re-blogs, shares, tweets, and so on).

    I am posting a comment myself just to make it clear that I agree that we cannot ever really fully control how our work is presented by others. However, Kristina’s comment regarding that emphasizes the point I was trying to make – again, thank you!

    I also want to answer Kristina’s question. Yes, I did contact the author, and the original publisher. Doing so was not much help. For details regarding what happened, please see the full version of the above blog, now available at:

  2. As an anthropologist newly part of disseminating research to an international audience (through a blog at Forbes), I have a lot of thoughts on this piece. First, I am curious about the piece that EJ Sobo refers to, as it looks like HuffPo simply carried (and amplified) an opinion column from Pacific Standard. Did Sobo contact the Pacific Standard author to correct misconceptions? (It appears from my reading that that author did not contact EJ, since he misspelled her last name throughout, which is not good practice.) Good journalists and outlets will correct factual issues, although that does not, of course, fix the echo-chamber journalism that piles on the errors like a kids’ game of telephone.

    It is definitely interesting that readers tend to attribute all the content and organization of a news or blog item to the named author of the article being covered, as EJ says happened to her in the HuffPo comments section. I have seen plenty of people complain about the lack of information in my pieces and attribute that to the journal article author rather than to me and my very deliberate choice of what to include and what not to include. I don’t pretend to be a journalist, as I was never trained as one, but the landscape of journalism is dramatically changing with contributed blog-hyphen-news sites like HuffPo and Forbes that are blurring the lines between academia and journalism before we’ve had a chance to examine the conflicts of interest and ethics that obtain.

    So I agree with EJ that proactively disseminating information is a good idea, up to and including the actual academic article (which you can usually post, in unfinished form, on the web so at least the content is available) but particularly in short form. Writing up an 800-word blog post about your latest journal article is a way to talk about your work, to practice writing for a different audience, and to give journalists guidance for reading your article. This is perhaps something that AAANet could assist with, if academics don’t have blogging outlets of their own. And working with university PR people can also be helpful in crafting a press release or a blog post.

    But I don’t agree that “we must maintain better control over how journalists present our work to lay audiences.” There is simply no way to do that, unless your university has a dedicated PR team that wants to fight these battles for you, and even then I don’t think that will make a huge difference. Being proactive about our message is the most we can do; send your article with a short summary to the science journalists you know. Don’t know any science journalists? Start reading their work, following them on Twitter, sending them email, and commenting on research for them, so that you do have a good relationship. I’ve only had a little press coverage of my own work, but it’s been good because I’ve been lucky to work with seasoned science journalists I trust.

    I don’t have all the answers (in spite of this lengthy comment which may suggest I think otherwise), but I do agree that anthropologists need to be more media-savvy. The landscape of journalism is changing rapidly, and the news cycle even faster, but I do think there’s a place for us to start telling the world why our field and our specific research is important.

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