Why aren’t journalists better at taking advantage of academic expertise?

Ezra Klein offers a view of academic, journalists, and bloggers:

Why aren’t journalists better at taking advantage of academic expertise?

The relationship between academics and journalists should be a happy symbiosis. The two sides are perfectly designed, in strengths and weaknesses, to support each other. Yet journalists, such as Kristof, are often frustrated by academics, while academics often feel ignored and dismissed by journalists.

The real problem is that the primary system for disseminating academic research — through professional journals and working papers — doesn’t work for anyone but academics, and it may not even work for them. Professional journals are wildly expensive to subscribe to and bizarrely difficult to keep up with.  (see PLOS Medicine for an alternative)

Cost isn’t the only problem. The journal system also fractures academic knowledge across dozens of different publications. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the papers being published. There’s no centralized list.

Between the problems of the journals and the oddities of the working papers, journalists lack an easy way to follow the work of academics. That leads to the kind of frustration Kristof articulated: Journalists know that academia holds a universe of valuable information; they just can’t find a reliable way to tap it.

The good news is the chasm is closing. Academics have increasingly turned to the blogosphere, opening a window on academic conversations that were formerly out of view. In political science, for instance, the Monkey Cage is a minor miracle. In economics, Mark Thoma at the Economist’s View is tireless in tracking discussion across the profession.

Still, it would be better if academics didn’t have to blog, or know a blogger, to get their work in front of interested audiences. That would be a new model for disseminating academic work —