The challenges of science journalism: The perspectives of scientists, science communication advisors and journalists from New Zealand

Douglas James Ashwell

The news media play an important role in informing the public about scientific and technological developments. Some argue that restructuring and downsizing result in journalists coming under increased pressure to produce copy, leading them to use more public relations material to meet their deadlines. This article explores science journalism in the highly commercialised media market of New Zealand. Using semi-structured interviews with scientists, science communication advisors and journalists, the study finds communication advisors and scientists believe most media outlets, excluding public service media, report science poorly. Furthermore, restructuring and staff cuts have placed the journalists interviewed under increasing pressure. While smaller newspapers appear to be printing press releases verbatim, metropolitan newspaper journalists still exercise control over their use of such material. The results suggest these journalists will continue to resist increasing their use of public relations material for some time to come.

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