David P. Ropeik

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David P. Ropeik is a consultant in risk communication. A former television reporter, he was Directer of Risk Communication for the largely industry-funded Harvard Center for Risk Analysis from 2000[1] through 2006.[2] and has continued teaching a Harvard extension school course.


Ropeik has a bachelor's and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.[3]


Ropeik was "a television reporter for WCVB-TV, Channel 5, in Boston for 22 years" [2], and had a Q&A newspaper science column from 1997 through at least 2000, before joining the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis as its Directer of Risk Communication in 2000[1]; he left this position in 2006.

At the the Harvard School of Public Health, he was an "Instructor in Risk Communication" until 2006. [4]

As of 2011, Ropeik is listed as teaching 'Critical Thinking about Environmental and Public Health Issues' in the Harvard Extension School's Environmental Studies program.[3]

An independent consultant by 2011, he received funding from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation to speak to newsrooms on how to write about risk.[5]


Ropeik's articles typically express the view that the risk reporting in the media is misplaced and/or overblown, saying in 2000, "There's a huge disconnect between what people are afraid of and what the data suggests are the real risks."[1]

On Mad Cow Disease

In the piece ("Mad Cow and the Media," 31 Dec. 2003), Ropeik argues that recent reporting on the mad cow case in Washington state is overblown, with reporters emphasizing the scariest aspects of the story, which is causing the public to develop an irrational fear of mad cow disease. Such reporting, the author contends, "drives demands that the government spend time and money protecting us from risks that aren't as big as such coverage leads us to believe." In support of his argument, Ropeik cites a study by "our center at Harvard" showing that the chance of mad cow disease threatening human health is "extraordinarily low." [3]


At Harvard Center for Risk Analysis

In a circa-2006 email to a SourceWatch editor, Ropeik listed his clients while at Harvard. Some of these clients were:


  • David P. Ropeik and George Gray, Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What’s Dangerous and What’s Safe in the World Around You, Houghton Mifflin, October 2002. ISBN 0618143726
  • David Ropeik, How Risky Is It, Really?: Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts, McGraw-Hill, February 2010. ISBN-13: 978-0071629690

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 No byline (2000-01-14). Risk Analysis Center Hires Local TV Reporter for Communications Position. Around the School - Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved on 2011-03-14. “David Ropeik, well known in Boston for his environmental and science reporting at WCVB-TV, Channel 5, began working on some big stories this week at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA). The biggest story may be that Ropeik has joined HCRA as its Director of Risk Communications. After 22 years in front of the camera, Ropeik will be using his media skills to educate policy makers, industry, and the public about health risks in our society.”
  2. Marc Lallanilla (2005-03-10). Doctors, Patients Wrestle With Drug Risks -. ABC News. Retrieved on 2011-03-14. “...says David Ropeik, director of risk communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis in Boston [in March 2005; according to Wikipedia, he left this position in 2006.”
  3. 3.0 3.1 No byline (Undated). David P. Ropeik. Harvard Extension School. Retrieved on 2011-03-14. “David Ropeik is a consultant in risk perception and risk communication. He is co-author of Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You, and author of How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Match The Facts. He is a former instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health and was co-director of the HSPH continuing education course "The Risk Communication Challenge." Prior to joining Harvard in 2000, Ropeik was a TV reporter in Boston for 22 years, specializing in coverage of environmental issues. He twice won the Columbia DuPont Award, often cited as the Pulitzer Prize of broadcast journalism. He has a bachelor's and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.”
  4. [1], no longer online
  5. David Ropeik (2011-03-11). Risk Reporting 101 - What journalists should know about hazards and exposure. CJR Observatory. Retrieved on 2011-03-14. “...just finished a series of visits to newsrooms around the country (paid for by a small grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation) to offer this “Intro to Risk” training. Most of the journalists at NPR, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and most of the other places I visited said they found the information really helpful.”

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles

By Ropeik

  • David Ropeik, "Mad Cow and the Media", Opinion, The Washington Post, Wednesday, December 31, 2003. (The Washington Post's archived version displays only an extract of the original column).