How the Internet may save science coverage in news media

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The March 2008 issue of Nature has a great editorial piece on the current (and future) state of science in news media. The article draws heavily on new information released by The Pew Research Center in a report called The State of the News Media 2008.

It discusses the glaringly evident problem of waning science coverage in news media.

Here are the main points:

1.Apparently, science coverage has never been very high in news media. It hovered around 4-6% (of total news coverage) from the mid-1970s until 2001 and is currently down to about 2%.

2.The problem doesn't appear to be just with cable news-science fares little better in other forms of television, radio, & print news.

3.The drop in science coverage does not reflect a falling public interest in science (this fact was also confirmed in a similar European study).

4.The Internet is overtaking television as the public's main source of science news (and I'd like to believe that communities like ScienceBlogs are contributing significantly to this trend).

How the Internet may save science coverage in news media:
The fact that the Internet is overtaking television as the public's main source of science news means that a larger global audience can now access, on demand, a great diversity of science coverage from media outlets around the world. Moreover, the public are no longer just passive consumers of information. The Internet is now the first place people go to look for more information on a scientific topic, such as stem cells or climate change. Thanks to the Internet, in short, one could argue that the overall state of science communication is better now than at any time in the past.

A word of caution (for science writers):
As the media industry moves online, some shakeout is inevitable. Straight news is becoming a commodity, which will be dominated by fewer players. Independent science desks and media can have a future in this environment, but only if they move up the food chain and provide proactive, deeper, must-read analyses instead of me-too articles reacting to the latest press releases.

Read more here.

All excerpts taken from the Nature article.

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Interesting blog you have here! Sounds like you are following science in the news a lot - I find it interesting to look at what makes it to the news, and what doesn't...

I have signed up for various science RSS news feeds to get my science news. I find that any mainstream news site just does not live up to expectations.

By Silmarillion (not verified) on 27 Mar 2008 #permalink

I have been thinking along these lines as well. The access to the internet's open libraries and the relatively low-cost publishing that it affords have served in several ways to broaden interest.