Media: Reporter’s biographical sections

Media: Reporter’s biographical sections

Why do reporters and book authors think this type of biographical sketch is meaningful:

Benj Edwards is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. In his free time, he writes and records music, collects vintage computers, and enjoys nature. He lives in Raleigh, NC. Microsoft offers legal protection for AI copyright infringement challenges | Ars Technic

More important to the biography would be what qualifications the author has to be telling us this story, as in say, work experience, projects completed, degrees held. Here are two other author bios at Ars Technica, which do make sense:

Beth Mole: Beth is Ars Technica’s Senior Health Reporter. Beth has a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and attended the Science Communication program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She specializes in covering infectious diseases, public health, and microbes. Ashley Belanger: Ashley is a senior policy reporter for Ars Technica, dedicated to tracking social impacts of emerging policies and new technologies. She is a Chicago-based journalist with 20 years of experience.

Here is one from

Scott Stein I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.

Note how he ties his non-tech degree to relevant connections to VR/AR concepts, which makes sense.

FYI – 77% of journalists have an undergrad degree in the arts and humanities; some of the remainder, especially business reporters, have degrees in business, business administration, economics, finance, and some have degrees in other subjects non-humanities subjects.

Many of those with degrees in art or creative writing have titles such as “Senior Science Correspondent” for a topic they’ve written about for as little as 2 years. Which does not inspire confidence. Here’s the problem: Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos was a creation of the media. Many of her early fans/journalists have since admitted they messed up and had been the first to create excitement around her startup; one reporter has since retracted his original reporting and apologized and testified in Court against here.

If more reporters covering this story had had backgrounds in biochemistry or biology or bioengineering – would her fraud have been discovered sooner?

Can you imagine other professions where having degrees exclusively in completely unrelated fields would be promoted on your web site. Why does it make sense for reporters to promote their lack of qualifications? And why do readers accept this?  

Worse, journalism is a mono-culture. Again, 77% have degrees in arts and humanities. The main exceptions are business/finance/economics reporting where such reporters are often expected to have a degree in one of those subjects, or where TV meteorologists are expected to have a degree in the subject or certification in the subject.

In all other subjects, health, medicine, engineering, sciences – most reporters have a BA in English literature, history or similar – and no formal training the fields they cover. Why is this acceptable?

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