The use of Internet in newsgathering among European science journalists

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

The communication of science through the media is considered an important social activity, as scientific awareness has previously been described as a fundamental pillar of a democratic society. In this activity, science journalists play a crucial role, standing between scientists – who do science – and the general public – who supports them through taxes.
Even though these professionals play such a vital role, most of the research on the socialization of science journalists is decades old and reflects mainly a United States perspective. With the arrival of the Internet in newsrooms, it is essential to understand how this new technology is shaping the newsgathering routines of science journalists and changing the attitudes of these professionals.
To answer these questions, I conducted the first survey of European science journalists working for general national print media and news agencies in 14 different countries of the European Union. This survey was carried out through the Internet and calls for participation were sent to 208 journalists from 102 different media. Answers were received from 97 science journalists, a response rate of 46.6 percent. After the survey, interviews with 12 of the respondents were conducted.
The main conclusion of this project was that not only science journalists are becoming more dependent on scientific journals in their daily reporting, they are also spending a lot of time on the Internet – 3.5 hours a day, on average –, an activity that increases the concentration on breaking news and prevents them from going outside the newsroom to write more feature stories. In consequence, readers are receiving a distorted image of science as a series of “discoveries” or “breakthroughs”, distant from the real daily world of scientists and the scientific process.
This dependency on the Internet, and on “ready-to-write” press releases from scientific journals, is threatening science journalism, as professionals are controlled by the same embargoes, are using the same sources and visiting the same sites, no matter what country they are working in. This loss of information diversity is a consequence of the introduction of the Internet in newsrooms, but also a result of the increasing media awareness of science sources. Once considered to live inside an ivory tower, scientists are now closer to society and able to control the media agenda for their own purposes.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Leeds
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Lax, Stephen , Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008

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