“Academics don’t like journalists“

It’s certainly a cliché in Germany to say that academics don’t like journalists. German universities are no longer just ivory towers of knowledge, for degree programs in Wissenschaftsjournalismus – literally academic-journalism – are helping the broader public to understand complex academic and scientific material.

More and more academics, including those from the natural sciences, are teaming up with journalists not only to communicate their findings, but also to gain public relations value for their themselves and their work.

Nonetheless, there are many academics who cringe at thought of being interviewed by journalists. They find it painful to hear from journalists that their work needs to be communicated publikumsgerecht – understandable for the public, for the “man on the street.”

For the academic, for the scientist, this can only mean dumbing down. They fear that the complexity will be so oversimplified that the public will not understand the overall message, its interconnections and mutual interdependencies.

Which is why German academics will always preface their statements with: “If put in a simplified way, the ….” or “In reality it is far more complex than this, but ….”