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Science Journalism  

Lars Guenther

Science journalism is a specialized form of journalism predominantly covering issues such as science, medicine, and technology; it only professionalized in the second half of the 20th century. For many people, print, audiovisual and online media are the main source they use to get to know something about these fields; hence, science journalism has an important role for the society. However, when looking at science journalism and the research in that area more closely, then a variety of different approaches paint a rather dark picture. Firstly, there is a lot of research criticizing science journalism and science journalists. What these studies focus on is science journalists’ work and role for the society, their routines and practices, their reporting on specific scientific issues, as well as the relationship between journalists and scientists. Secondly, in some countries, science journalism seems to be in a crisis due to increasing digitization and changing media landscapes. Science journalism is declining in these countries and many journalists have lost their jobs. However, assessing the quality and appropriateness of science journalism should be based on journalistic and not on scientific criteria, and these criteria should be used when trying to describe what science journalism is and what not, how science journalism operates and how not, and how best to describe the role science journalism has for the society. In addition, although increasing digitization may change routines and practices of science journalists, these specialized journalists may be able to adapt to new media landscapes and still maintain their important role for the society as the most disinterested source that informs about science, medicine, and technology.

Article

News, Economic Governance, and Anti-Corruption  

Anya Schiffrin

In the past 50 years, there has been a burgeoning literature on the role of journalism in promoting governance and supporting anti-corruption efforts. Much of this comes from the work of economists and political scientists, and there is a lot for journalism studies scholars to learn from. The three disciplines grapple with many of the same questions; including the effects of journalism on society and journalists’ role as watchdogs and scarecrows. Economists are the boldest about establishing causality between journalism and governance, arguing that a free and open press can curb corruption and promote accountability. However, this is not always borne out in practice as modern technological and political developments have threatened journalism’s business model, especially in regions without a historically robust free press. Media capture continues to be a growing problem in places where government and business interests are aligned and seek to instrumentalize the media. Further quantitative research and exploration of the impediments to the functioning of a free media will help our understanding of the contemporary problems facing journalists and how they can be solved in order to improve governance across the world. There is much more to be learned about the impact of journalism on governance and studies on this topic should not only cross disciplines but must also be decolonialized so that the field has more information on how the media contributes, or not, to governance in the Global South and in the different media systems outlined by Hallin and Mancini as well as the updated analysis of Efrat Nechushtai.

Article

Public Relations in Health and Risk Communication  

John Lynch

Research on public relations (PR) in health and risk message design and processing is a small but persistent area of publication within the broader fields of science/health journalism, health communication, and public understanding of science. PR scholars define their field as the creation of two-way communication that emphasizes understanding of the organization’s position among stakeholders like journalists or the general public. In health, medicine, and science, PR is understood to be a bridge between scientists or scientific organizations and journalists, who tell scientific stories to the public. Most studies of science-related PR emphasize that it encourages a positive perception of science in general and scientists or scientific organizations in particular. This emphasis on a positive image for the scientific organization leads to mistrust of PR professionals by journalists. PR in health, medicine, and science consists of two areas. The first involves crisis PR, where the PR professional works to either prevent or respond to an emergency situation. This begins with environmental scanning and then creating plans to anticipate potential crises by considering ongoing political, social, environmental, and technological developments. The second area consists of science popularization, where the PR office provides journalists with story ideas and information that they can use to write their stories. Much of this information is provided in the form of press releases. Research has shown that press releases increase the amount of coverage of scientific and medical findings, and scholars are examining the ways in which press releases contribute to journalistic reportage and the situations in which the efforts of PR offices are frustrated.