Irving and Renee Milchberg Endowed Lecture: James Glanz, the New York Times

Event Start Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 3:30 pm

Event End Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 5:00 pm

Location: John S. Toll Physics Building, Room 1412

The Public Relations Machine in Science: A Self-Inflicted Wound?

3:30 p.m. Light refreshments
4:00 p.m. Lecture

Parking is available in the Regents Drive Garage. Enter via Stadium Drive; an attendant will direct visitors within the garage. Additionally, the free #104 ShuttleUM bus runs between the College Park Metro Station and Regents Drive at about 12-minute intervals.

Questions? Contact the Department of Physics at or 301-405-5946.

Scientists have legitimate reasons to worry that reporters will not cover important research, will not accurately portray complex findings, or will sensationalize breakthroughs that require caveats. Unfortunately, the public relations apparatus that scientists created and support has made the situation far worse. The science public relations machine disincentivizes the kind of ambitious reporting that receives prominence — and therefore readers — in major publications, and drives out talented journalists who refuse to be herded by embargoes and other restrictions. I will discuss how by trying to promote and protect their work, scientists have instead damaged science journalism and helped to erode public confidence in science itself.

James Glanz grew up in radio and television stations as the son of a sportscaster and DJ in the Midwest. Dead broke in college, he talked his way into a job at a physics lab, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton. He then turned to journalism, and at Science magazine broke stories like the discovery of dark energy in the universe. At the New York Times, he covered the collapse of the twin towers on Sept. 11 and spent two years reporting from ground zero. In 2003, with Eric Lipton, he published City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center. He has also been the Times’s Baghdad bureau chief and has covered disasters ranging from the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral to the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max jetliners.




University of Maryland Professor of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering Howard Milchberg, his wife Rena, and their three children Moses, Mollie, and Max, established this lecture in memory of Howard’s late parents, Renee and Irving Milchberg. Renee and Irving were witnesses to and victims of what can happen to society when ideology and lies are accepted in lieu of facts. Howard’s own decision to study physics was motivated by a compelling need for clarity and truth, which grew out of his parents’ experiences. The Milchberg family hopes this lectureship will serve to honor the legacy of Renee and Irving by continuing to give voice to facts and evidence, vital for a civilized society.

Renee was born in Jaslo, Poland, in 1929. She contracted polio just before the German and Soviet invasions in September 1939 and underwent treatment on what became the Soviet side of the frontier. She spent the remainder of the war in a Siberian labor camp, and then in a Polish orphanage in what is now Uzbekistan, before immigrating to New York, where she had relatives. Irving was born in 1927 in Warsaw, Poland. After the German invasion and the creation of the Warsaw ghetto, his father was shot at the ghetto gate, and his sisters and mother were taken to the Treblinka death camp. Because of his light hair and blue eyes, Irving was able to hide in plain sight, becoming the leader of a gang of teenagers who sold cigarettes to German soldiers in Warsaw while smuggling food and guns to the resistance fighters. He was trained as a watchmaker in a displaced persons camp before immigrating to Canada. He moved to Niagara Falls and worked as a jeweler and later owned a souvenir and jewelry store. Irving and Renee met in 1953, when Renee visited Niagara Falls as a tourist. They were married for 58 years and in their later years moved to Toronto. Irving died in 2014 and Renee in 2017.

Renee’s story is written about in “After the Girl’s Club: How Teenaged Holocaust Survivors Built New Lives in America,” by Carole Bell Ford (Lexington Books, 2010). Irving’s story is central to “The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square” written by Holocaust survivor Joseph Ziemian (Library of Holocaust Testimonies, 1970).

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