There has been a fair amount of online discussion and tweeting lately about the "role" of journalism and journalists, specifically in the context of science journalism.

(Some of the most interesting examples, in no particular order: A well-argued essay by Bora Zivkovic, aka @BoraZ, posted on his Scienceblog, a thought-provoking set of interviews with several of today's most visible science journalists by Ontario-based science journalist Colin Schultz, and a fascinating recorded discussion with Andy Revkin, hosted by Chris Mooney and sponsored by the Center for Inquiry)

Let me first say I think writers and readers of science-related content should definitely be engaging in these types of discussions, and hashing out their meanings and repercussions together.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Every time I turn on the television, log-in to the New York Times, cruise around the Twitterverse, or refresh Matt Drudge's report and Josh Marshall's blog, it's clear that peeps and tweeps are walking (or sitting) around carrying at least several different definitions of the word "journalism" in their heads.

How can we have a discussion about journalism's role before we discuss what journalism -- either in general or specifically within the context of science communication -- is? A conversation between a scientist and journalist, about the journalist's role in the communication of science, can be productive only if the interested parties work together to determine a mutually-held definition of the term in question.

So, in the spirit of Explainthis.org, I have opened two questions up to the crowd:

What is journalism?

What is "news"?

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