Difficultly with Diffusing Knowledge

Ezra Klein responded to Nicholas Kristoff's column, explaining why academicians do not serve as sources for journalists. In short, Klein argues for the inclusion of academicians as sources for story. The money summary:

Although academics write in jargon, they speak in English. And they’re typically happy to donate absurd amounts of time walking reporters through the thickets of their expertise. Their knowledge becomes our stories -- and, ultimately, our page views and advertising impressions. It would be a disaster for our profession if academics became good at communicating what they know.

Klein then offers several reasons for why journalists do not talk with academicians, including:

  • Too many academic journal publications;
  • Too much time between crafting the initial journal submission and the availability of the accepted submission;
  • Too much splintering of ideas, thoughts, and arguments across and between disciplines;
  • Too much power held by journal publishers who limit access.

From my perspective, though, journalists do contact me to provide comments for stories. I have never been contacted for a story idea, though. I serve in a re-active role, waiting for a journalist to request a comment; rather than a pro-active role, providing a story to a journalist.

I also offer another addition to Klein's list. The rewards remain nonexistent for academicians to talk with journalists. No faculty member will receive tenure for the number of times a journalist called. Instead, the reward system still favors those journal articles that hinder instead of assisting the diffusion of a discipline's knowledge.

Until the reward structure system changes, academicians will not consider sharing their knowledge through journalists.