End of the line

The folks at The Wire have laid The Wire Science to rest, I’ve learnt. The site hasn’t published any (original) articles since February 2 and its last tweet was on February 16, 2024.

At the time I left, in October 2022, the prospect of it continuing to run on its own steam was very much in the picture. But I’ve also been out of the loop since and learnt a short while ago that The Wire Science stopped being a functional outlet sometime earlier this year, and that its website and its articles will, in the coming months, be folded into The Wire, where they will continue to live. The Wire must do what’s best for its future and I don’t begrudge the decision to stop publishing The Wire Science separately – although I do wonder if, even if they didn’t see sense in finding a like-for-like replacement, they could have attempted something less intensive with another science journalist. I’m nonetheless sad because some things will still be lost.

Foremost on my mind are The Wire Science‘s distinct sensibilities. As is the case at The Hindu as well as at all publications whose primary journalistic product is ‘news’, the science coverage doesn’t have the room or license to examine a giant swath of the science landscape, which – while in many ways being science news in the sense that it presents new information derived from scientific work – can only manifest in the pages of a news product as ‘analysis’, ‘commentary’, ‘opinion’, etc. The Wire has the latter, or had when I left and I don’t know how they’ll be thinking about that going ahead, but there is still the risk of science coverage there not being able to spread its wings nearly as widely as it could on The Wire Science.

I still think such freedom is required because we haven’t figured out how best to cover science, at least not without also getting entangled in questions about science’s increasingly high-strung relationship with society and whether science journalists, as practitioners of a science journalism coming of age anew in the era of transdisciplinary technologies (AI, One Health, open access, etc.), can expect to be truly objective, forget covering science by the same rules and expectations that guide the traditional journalisms of business, politics, sports, etc. If however The Wire‘s journalists are still thinking about these things, kudos and best wishes to them.

Of course, one thing was definitely lost: the room to experiment with forms of storytelling that better interrogate many of these alternative possibilities I think science journalism needs to embrace. Such things rarely, if ever, survive the demands of the everyday newsroom. Again, The Wire must do what it deems best for its future; doing otherwise would be insensible. But loss is also loss. RIP. I’m sad, but also proud The Wire Science was what it was when it lived.