How Ecological Science is Portrayed in Mass Media

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"Improving science literacy in the general public has become increasingly important to ecologists. Although many scientists are involved in outreach, most of the public depends on mass media sources to learn about original scientific research. In this study, we explore how ecological findings are portrayed in the mass media. To do so, we survey media coverage of scientific articles published in the journal Ecology over the past decade. We find that relatively few scientific articlesless than 2% of the total published papersreceive any media coverage. Newspapers constitute the primary medium for ecological findings, followed closely by newswire, and distantly by newsletters, magazines, and online web publications; no ecological findings are reported in television or radio during the timeframe we examined. We also examine which components of scientific publications are covered in news stories, focusing on five categories: theory, methods, results, discussion, and background science not coming directly from the scientific paper. Considerable coverage in media stories (about one-fourth of media story content) focuses on the results of the paper; interestingly, just over a third of media story content covers discussion material, followed closely by theory at 17%. We conclude that although relatively few Ecology articles are covered in the mass media, those that are tend to focus on the implications of scientific research and on actual scientific findings. Finally, Ecology articles covered in mainstream media were not cited more or less frequently by scientists than those not covered in mainstream media. That is, journalists appear to feature an average spectrum of academic work, rather than articles that ultimately become most highly cited in the ecological field."
journalism, mass media, science