High energy geology - working with Discovery Communications on Faces of Earth

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One of the most common complaints within scientific communities about commercial television is that the presented science is “bad.”   From the perspective of formally trained scientists, this assertion is a fair critique.  However, just as television often presents science badly, so scientists do television even worse!  The key challenge in improving the geosciences’ presence and effectiveness is mass televised media is to understand and respect the differences between the two worlds.  Television networks and production companies operate in a fiercely competitive environment in which every action must be groundbreaking and earth-shattering.  They are creative individuals operating within a world of rules substantially different than the science community.  The American Geological Institute undertook the effort to bridge these worlds through its “Faces of Earth” television series premiered on The Science Channel.  This effort took five years of planning and fund-raising and nearly 18 months of continuous production by nearly 180 creative, technical, and scientific personnel.  AGI’s goal was to see a first-class television show produced that represented the geosciences community well.  This effort was an equal learning experience for AGI staff, participating scientists, and for the television production crews.  Never before has the geoscience community worked so closely with first-line media, nor has a major earth science production been so thoroughly reviewed and critiqued scientifically.  At the end of the day, strong science and strong television is a negotiated settlement, and the “Faces of Earth” experience provides key lessons for the geosciences community on how to interface constructively with a mass media outlet.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Ann Benbow*
  • Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2006