Friday, June 30, 2006

New York Times Science Sections A Superior Product

If there is anything that clearly marks the New York Times as a superior paper these days, it's Tuesday's Science Times, a weekly section that contains fascinating stories on both science and health.

By contrast, since the relief of Joel Greenberg as science editor in the first days of Tribune Co. control over the L.A. Times, the LAT science coverage has been very sparse indeed. The paper still can run an excellent science story, such as Lee Hotz's piece on the melting Greenland ice cap, and it has good environmental coverage.

But for diversity and depth in science coverage, nothing these days can match the New York Times, which obviously is putting its tremendous resources to good use in this area.

This is one section of the NYT I always look forward to, and am seldom disappointed.
In just recent weeks, its stories on global warming alone have made me feel the high purchase price for a year's Times subscription (six times what I pay to subscribe for a year to the L.A. Times) makes it well worth the price.

Just this week, the Science Times ran a tremendous piece on some long range solutions to global warming, including the possibility of putting sunshades into orbit to cool the planet, or tinkering with clouds to make them reflect more sunlight back into space, or tricking the oceans into absorbing more greenhouse gases.

As this article said, these long range proposals are presently "on the fringes of climate science,...but now, in a major reversal, some of the world's most prominent scientists say the proposals deserve a serious look because of growing concerns about global warming" and lagging international efforts to legislate restrictions on greenhouse gases.

The week before, in the June 20 issue, Science Times led with another global warming article, on the threat rising sea levels pose to beaches around the world.

Coverage in this section of space science is also far above anything other papers are doing. And Jane Brody's weekly column on health issues is usually better than anything the L.A. Times is doing in its entire weekly health section, which continues to be a disappointment.

There is no doubt that good science coverage is a service to the reading public. It is a shame that when John Carroll changed the Metro section into the California section of the L.A. Times, the space for science coverage slipped drastically.

The LAT has fine science and medical reporters, not only Hotz, but Usha McFarling and Tom Maugh among them, but they are no longer given either the direction or the space to do their jobs as they once did. Earthquake coverage alone has slipped since I retired. There are still occasional good stories, but the Times has simply stopped printing reports of most magnitude 4 and larger quakes, which occur usually at least once a week and should serve to keep readers alerted to the quake danger.

A retired senior editor remarked to me recently that the L.A. Times' slippage under the Tribune ownership had not meant that good stories were no longer being produced. The difference, he said, is that the paper these days is uneven and parts of the coverage has slipped.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, with its national edition selling hundreds of thousands of copies a day, is always providing new dimensions of coverage. Science Times has been getting better and better.


Anonymous Tim McGarry said...

Agree, sadly (re LAT). Hard to understand, with such talented reporters on staff.

6/30/2006 9:52 PM  
Blogger amyalkon said...

Additionally, I think the editors of the Calendar section are hiding by publishing a section that is largely reviews. If they publish stuff about culture, they might get angry letters from readers. Heavens!

7/02/2006 10:32 AM  
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