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Non-news Values in Science Journalism Felicity Mellor Imperial College London

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Presentation on theme: "Non-news Values in Science Journalism Felicity Mellor Imperial College London"— Presentation transcript:

1 Non-news Values in Science Journalism Felicity Mellor Imperial College London f.mellor@imperial.ac.uk

2 The End of Men? Men become unnecessary It's end of Da world Fresh hope for childless couples as scientists create sperm in lab A world with no men? Wed have no one to laugh at! Science has gone to seed That's all, blokes! Face it, guys, we'd be better off without you An end to fathers? Not in my lifetime 101 uses for a man 'Synthetic sperm' infertility hope Human life created from a skin cell

3 News values Negativity Recency Proximity Consonance Unambiguity Unexpectedness/Novelty Superlativeness Relevance Personalization Eliteness Attribution Facticity Allan Bell, The Language of News Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) pp. 156-158.

4 News values Negativity Recency Proximity Consonance Unambiguity Unexpectedness/Novelty Superlativeness Relevance Personalization Eliteness Attribution Facticity Allan Bell, The Language of News Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) pp. 156-158.

5 News values Negativity Recency Proximity Consonance Unambiguity Unexpectedness/Novelty Superlativeness Relevance Personalization Eliteness Attribution Facticity Allan Bell, The Language of News Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) pp. 156-158.

6 News values Negativity Recency Proximity Consonance Unambiguity Unexpectedness/Novelty Superlativeness Relevance Personalization Eliteness Attribution Facticity Allan Bell, The Language of News Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) pp. 156-158.

7 News values Negativity Recency Proximity Consonance Unambiguity Unexpectedness/Novelty Superlativeness Relevance Personalization Eliteness Attribution Facticity Allan Bell, The Language of News Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) pp. 156-158.

8 News values Negativity Recency Proximity Consonance Unambiguity Unexpectedness/Novelty Superlativeness Relevance Personalization Eliteness Attribution Facticity Allan Bell, The Language of News Media (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) pp. 156-158.

9 News values Negativity Recency Proximity Consonance Unambiguity Unexpectedness/Novelty Superlativeness Relevance Personalization Eliteness Attribution Facticity

10 Science journalism is just journalism, after all Same news values for science as other beats...

11 Science journalism is just journalism, after all Same news values for science as other beats...... except where it is different!

12 Two strong coffees a day can reverse Alzheimers The lifestyle to beat Alzheimer's Coffee 'repairs memory FORGET THE HEALTH FASCISTS, COFFEE IS GOOD FOR YOU!

13 BBC news coverage of science Two thirds of items about research findings include no expression of uncertainty. Only a fifth of contributors to broadcast news and a quarter of contributors to online news made cautionary comments. Only 7% of broadcast contributors and 4% of online contributors made deeper criticisms. Only an eighth of broadcast items and two fifths of online items about research include comment from independent scientists. Felicity Mellor, Stephen Webster and Alice Bell, Content Analysis of the BBCs Science Coverage (London: BBC Trust, 2011).

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15 Unaggressive in their reporting and relying on official sources, science journalists present a narrow range of coverage. Many journalists, are, in effect, retailing science and technology more than investigating them, identifying with their sources more than challenging them. Dorothy Nelkin, Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology (New York: W.H. Freeman, 1987) p. 175.

16 News reporting of funders of research Eight week sample of BBC news on television, radio and online. Only 14% of online items mention funders or funding. Only 3% of broadcast items mention funders or funding.. Felicity Mellor, Stephen Webster and Alice Bell, Content Analysis of the BBCs Science Coverage (London: BBC Trust, 2011).

17 The non-reporting of funders of research For 29 press-released stories about research: 4 of 142 newspaper articles mention the funders. 1 of 99 BBC broadcast items mention the funders.

18 Advocacy groups on all sides of debates in science and technology (including professional institutions) should publicly disclose funding sources, to allow the public to decide potential sources of bias. Chris Langley and Stuart Parkinson, Science and the Corporate Agenda: The Detrimental Effects of Commercial Influence on Science and Technology (Scientists for Global Responsibility, 2009) p. 8.

19 It is worth remembering, though, that almost all British research in – say – theoretical physics, or evolution, or marine biology is funded directly by the tax-payer and it is surely not mandatory that, in the interests of impartiality, the precise source of support be pointed out each time a news item mentions such work. The Content Analysis shows that often they are not but this seems to me not a major issue. Steve Jones, BBC Trust Review of the Impartiality and Accuracy of the BBCs coverage of science, (London: BBC Trust, 2011) p. 58.

20 Non-news values

21 Provisionality Contingency Dissonance

22 Non-news Values in Science Journalism Felicity Mellor Imperial College London f.mellor@imperial.ac.uk


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