The Urban Scientist

The Urban Scientist

A hip hop maven blogs on urban ecology, evolutionary biology & diversity in the sciences

Getting the Science Right in the Black Press - Making Headway with @EbonyMag


Why did I come so hard and so fast?

1. It was 5:30 in the morning and I wasn't falling asleep anytime soon, and had my tethers raised.

2. I figured I'd make my points on Twitter - mainly correcting the science of the narrative and making a case for why reporting science accurately in the Black Press to Black audiences is imperative.

3. I didn't expect Ebony Magazine to actually respond.

This last point I really want to expand on. You see, it is a very frustrating thing being a minority scientist. And believe it or not, the folk who I (and many others like me) spend the most time fussing and fighting with are people from our own communities who look like us. That has been my experience with 'Old-school Black organizations' like Ebony/Jet Magazine, The Church, Civic Organizations, and Social Justice/Civil Rights Organizations. As important as they have been and are for representing people of color and serving the African-American community, they haven't always been the most progressive when it comes to listening to Generation X/Y-ers. They just haven't. And science education and medical research has been one of those sticky widget conversations that has felt like a battle to me. So, I came puffed out, with my armaments on and ready to hold fast.

In the end, headway was made - quickly, too - before breakfast. And Science won! It's just a start, but maybe it will be enough to get the editors and folks in the back room to thinking:

  • Hey, maybe we should run parallel science pieces that explain the topics we're reporting! A side-by-side box explaining how Depo-Provera works would have been a sweet piece of subtle health science news for this article. (low-hanging fruit) OR

A scientist can dream, can' she?


And dream I must. Seemed the tweets about this topic were still trickling in and the person behind the Twitter account of Ebony got a little put off with me. Wound up being a multi-hour discussion that I thought was going well and then, not so much.

Let me put it this way, I read Ebony Magazine my entire life. My grandmother has stacks of magazines hiding in the garage and attic that go back the 1950's. (I ain't lying!) So, I get what Ebony means. I've always wanted to get Ebony Magazine's attention, but this isn't exactly how I saw it happening in my head. Guess, I've caused enough trouble for the day.

I'm too tired to storify round two, so here is the quick and dirty:

1) I called Ebony Magazine out for an inaccurate headline - they got the science wrong.
2) They changed it but didn't change how they pushed it out.
3) I used the story as (more) evidence for why better science coverage is needed in Black Press - something I blog about A LOT.
4) I thought we were done, but then Ebony Mag came after me for Airing out greivances with Black Press on Twitter and not going about the proper channels (whatever those are, because I really don't know, which is also a point)
5) I make the point that
a) yes I have tried to get action on this topic -Science & Black Media for MANY years, gotten no where
b) there isn't a place - professionally - for scientists and journalists to mingle and interact and get this conversation started, hence why I & others have hit a wall for so long
6) They kindly remark "Why havent' you started your own STEM website?" to which I have a side eye. I don't know what they think my blog at Scientific American is. <_<
7) My lovely Stans jumped in..Thank yall! and had my back asking pointed questions about Science coverage
to which Ebony said "We aint never got a science pitch from none of yall! Never ever! Seriously, they tweeted that not a single desk editor have ever been a science story, ever!
9) They said they would accept science pitches and shared the email of how to do so digitally.
That's the good part, but it just got really icky along the way.

You can check out my Twitter stream of the exchange if you like.

The great news is that they say they are very open to Science Pitches. Straight from them: digital pitches can be sent to I am loving this, so I am encouraging everyone to pitch science-related stories to them. Everyone!

But I am also concerned that I have pissed them off good that my interests/efforts get Black Press to cover science more thoroughly will not happen. I wasn't trying to antagonize them, at least not in this way. I wanted it to be about the scholarship of information sharing, why science vs. journalism boundaries must be removed. I'm just hoping they aren't so smarted by this (or any other organization looking on, say National Association of Black Journalists that I've been trying to reach, also) that they dismiss the conversation that is long over due: The need for science in the Black News room


The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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