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’A crisis of science journalism ?’ - London PUS seminar - 23rd March

The next London Public Understanding of Science Seminar will be on Wed 23rd March. We are pleased to welcome Andy Williams (Cardiff University) who will be discussing his recent research on science journalism in the UK.

Speaker : Andy Williams, Cardiff University

Title : A crisis of science journalism ?

Date, Time and Location : Wednesday 23rd March 2011 16:15-18:00 Venue : S314 Room S314 is located on the third floor of St. Clements building on the LSE campus, which can be accessed through the entrance on Houghton Street : http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/mapsAndDirections/findingYourWayAroundLSE.htm

Abstract :

Science news is not formed in a social, economic, or cultural vacuum. It is written by people at news organisations which are cutting staff and investing fewer resources into news production than previously. I believe that any discussion of science news in the UK must be situated in the context of the economic and political conditions under which news is made. Drawing on the findings of an internet survey of UK science news journalists (response rate 43%), and 52 semi-structured interviews with specialist journalists and editors, this paper will investigate elements of the political economy of UK specialist science, health and environment news journalism by assessing changes in the strength of this news beat over time, and evaluating changes in working practices and working conditions.

The research shows there was a significant long-term expansion in the staffing of the UK national science news beat in the 1990s, but also that this growth has recently tailed off as key news outlets have started to cut science journalists. Furthermore, workloads have risen significantly in recent years and this has fuelled a number of problems resulting in increased story counts, pressures to produce more online content, and less time to find, check, and research stories. Consequently, important elements of journalism practice are increasingly outsourced to a fairly narrow range of efficient science news sources. This leads to an increasing reliance on PR information subsidies and a homogenisation of science news content. As long as science reporters’ everyday routines leave ever-diminished time and space for finding their own news stories and writing them rigorously, the prospects for high quality, independent, science news in national mainstream media are diminished.