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Science Journalists Online: Shifting Roles and Emerging Practices

September 28, 2011, 8:12 AM
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Science journalists in the US and UK face unique pressures adapting to the social and participatory nature of online news, to economic conditions that force them to fill a diversity of roles in the newsroom, and to the many hats they must wear if they are to survive as freelancers.

As a consequence, science journalists in writing for online media have shifted away from their traditional role as privileged conveyors of scientific findings to a diversity of roles as curators, conveners, public intellectuals and civic educators, roles that are underwritten by the essential skills of criticism, synthesis and analysis.

These online science journalists have a more collaborative relationship with their audiences and sources and are generally adopting a more critical and interpretative stance towards the scientific community, industry, and policy-oriented organizations.

Those are just a few of the key conclusions from a new peer-reviewed study published this month at Journalism: Theory, Criticism and Practice.  Co-authored with my American University colleague Declan Fahy, we based our analysis on a systematic review of recent studies and reports and on interviews that we conducted with nationally prominent science journalists and writers in the US and UK.

Fahy writes about the study in an article appearing later this morning at the Columbia Journalism Review.  In a blog post at the Climate Shift Project web site, l discuss how we conducted our research and summarize key findings and conclusions.  A PDF of the study is also available at the site.

 

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