Although research about science journalism can look back on a quite long tradition it has given little attention to journalism-theoretical aspects of science coverage. While there is an impressing bulk of empirical work, describing carefully every detail of the journalist’s world, the theoretical perspective is reduced to normative expectations how science coverage should be.
     

As a rule, the research starts from the assumption that there is a necessity to communicate scientific knowledge from ”the” science to ”the” nonscientific public. This underlying assumption determines how the function(s) science journalism are conceptualized (e.g. as transmitter of scientific information). The crucial point is, that this popularization-programme is obviously inadequate to describe the social function of journalistic coverage about science and the mutual relations between science and society. Science coverage is only evaluated in the light of a concept which intends to create – for whatever reasons and goals – a better developed public understanding of science.
     

The paper first tries to give some reasons for this still existing missing link between empirical and theoretical observations about science coverage. Than it points out the consequences of such a normative programme, which more or less obliges science journalism to follow scientific rationality and evaluations in favor of a superior role of science in the modern society: A perspective which interprets the specific selectivity of (science) journalism only as a constraint to an ”ideal” science coverage, ignores consequently a possible autonomous function of journalistic coverage about the relation of science and society. In other words: It simply denies the independence of the journalistic perspective.
     

Therefore, in a third step, the paper proposes a theoretical conceptualization of science journalism, which refers to the situation of a society, in which scientific knowledge can not be seen any longer as an undoubtful source of social orientation. The main conclusion is that the social function of science journalism has to be strictly separated from the traditional concepts of popularization and public understanding of science.
 

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science journalism and journalism science

Matthias Kohring   Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena

Although research about science journalism can look back on a quite long tradition it has given little attention to journalism-theoretical aspects of science coverage. While there is an impressing bulk of empirical work, describing carefully every detail of the journalist’s world, the theoretical perspective is reduced to normative expectations how science coverage should be.
     

As a rule, the research starts from the assumption that there is a necessity to communicate scientific knowledge from ”the” science to ”the” nonscientific public. This underlying assumption determines how the function(s) science journalism are conceptualized (e.g. as transmitter of scientific information). The crucial point is, that this popularization-programme is obviously inadequate to describe the social function of journalistic coverage about science and the mutual relations between science and society. Science coverage is only evaluated in the light of a concept which intends to create – for whatever reasons and goals – a better developed public understanding of science.
     

The paper first tries to give some reasons for this still existing missing link between empirical and theoretical observations about science coverage. Than it points out the consequences of such a normative programme, which more or less obliges science journalism to follow scientific rationality and evaluations in favor of a superior role of science in the modern society: A perspective which interprets the specific selectivity of (science) journalism only as a constraint to an ”ideal” science coverage, ignores consequently a possible autonomous function of journalistic coverage about the relation of science and society. In other words: It simply denies the independence of the journalistic perspective.
     

Therefore, in a third step, the paper proposes a theoretical conceptualization of science journalism, which refers to the situation of a society, in which scientific knowledge can not be seen any longer as an undoubtful source of social orientation. The main conclusion is that the social function of science journalism has to be strictly separated from the traditional concepts of popularization and public understanding of science.
 

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP