Science journalists are confronted daily with a high number of possible issues from various sources (Clark & Illman, 2006), but they can only cover some topics out of a variety of different scientific issues. Their decision about what to publish is influenced by selection criteria (Badenschier & Wormer, 2012). While there is some research tailoring assumptions of general journalism theory to science journalism, a systematization of different selection criteria is still missing. That is why this paper applies assumptions of the Gatekeeping theory (Shoemaker, 1991; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009) to investigate the most important selection criteria in science journalism. At the same time, results of recent research on science journalists’ selection can extend this systematization, for instance science journalists’ professional role conceptions (Wolff, 2003), news factors in science journalism (Badenschier & Wormer, 2012), organizational characteristics (White, Evand, Mihill & Tysoe, 1993), and science journalists’ handling with sources, PR, audience perceptions and the coverage of other media (Corbett & Durfee, 2004; Weitkamp, 2010; Wormer, 2006). To investigate this systematization, semistructured interviews with German science journalists (n = 21) from different media (TV programs, newspapers, science magazines, news magazines) were conducted. Journalists were asked to answer open-ended questions according to the different levels provided by Gatekeeping. A qualitative content analysis was conducted on the transcripts of the interviews to measure importance and context of the selection criteria mentioned by the science journalists. Initial results reveal that main factors influencing the science journalistic selection of science issues predominantly included their professional role as information provider, and their own personal interest in issues, the fact that issues need to be new, relevant and connected to applications (news factors), and organizational criteria like the discussion of issues in editorial conferences and the cooperation with other journalists. Other aspects on the selection process were of minor importance. On basis of the findings a systematization of science journalists’ selection criteria with regard to the levels provided by Gatekeeping shall be developed. Such a model can then respectively be tested in a representative sample of science journalists.

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The science-gatekeeper
A systematization of science journalists’ selection criteria

Lars Günther   Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany

Science journalists are confronted daily with a high number of possible issues from various sources (Clark & Illman, 2006), but they can only cover some topics out of a variety of different scientific issues. Their decision about what to publish is influenced by selection criteria (Badenschier & Wormer, 2012). While there is some research tailoring assumptions of general journalism theory to science journalism, a systematization of different selection criteria is still missing. That is why this paper applies assumptions of the Gatekeeping theory (Shoemaker, 1991; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009) to investigate the most important selection criteria in science journalism. At the same time, results of recent research on science journalists’ selection can extend this systematization, for instance science journalists’ professional role conceptions (Wolff, 2003), news factors in science journalism (Badenschier & Wormer, 2012), organizational characteristics (White, Evand, Mihill & Tysoe, 1993), and science journalists’ handling with sources, PR, audience perceptions and the coverage of other media (Corbett & Durfee, 2004; Weitkamp, 2010; Wormer, 2006). To investigate this systematization, semistructured interviews with German science journalists (n = 21) from different media (TV programs, newspapers, science magazines, news magazines) were conducted. Journalists were asked to answer open-ended questions according to the different levels provided by Gatekeeping. A qualitative content analysis was conducted on the transcripts of the interviews to measure importance and context of the selection criteria mentioned by the science journalists. Initial results reveal that main factors influencing the science journalistic selection of science issues predominantly included their professional role as information provider, and their own personal interest in issues, the fact that issues need to be new, relevant and connected to applications (news factors), and organizational criteria like the discussion of issues in editorial conferences and the cooperation with other journalists. Other aspects on the selection process were of minor importance. On basis of the findings a systematization of science journalists’ selection criteria with regard to the levels provided by Gatekeeping shall be developed. Such a model can then respectively be tested in a representative sample of science journalists.

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