PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Insiders, outsiders, or in-between?
An international comparison of the role of science journalists

Bruce V. Lewenstein   Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Journalism plays different roles in different countries, as the extended debate over the New World Information Order' proposed by UNESCO indicated. One fundamental issue is whether journalists should develop their stories independently or whether they should be under the control of some agency, such as a national government. Similar issues arise in science journalism, where the research literature has shown that many stories are both created and shaped by major scientific institutions rather than by individual journalists. In an era when major international issues, such as ocean pollution, acid rain, deforestation, agricultural development, and so on, involve science, it is important to understand the contexts in which science journalists act. This paper will report on a comparative history of science journalism in two developed democracies (the U.S. and Britain), looking especially at the degree to which science journalism has developed in partnerships or in adversarial relationships with scientific institutions. The paper will suggest ways m which science journalists can mesh their own concerns with the concerns of their sources and their audiences.

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