History of Science Journalism

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The press and radio, outlets for science

Science was a source of wonder for the general public and scientists were increasingly prominent in society. Newspapers and popular magazines presented scientists with great admiration. But this passion for science led some magazines to deliberately combine science fiction with science reviews for the general public.

For the most part, in La Presse and the Star, science was presented in news articles and columns. Health was the leading subject of interest, but botany, agriculture, astronomy, geology and aeronautics were also explored.

French-language daily newspapers, in particular Le Devoir, actively supported the establishment of the first French Canadian scientific institutions.

In 1920, the creation of  Université de Montréal and its Faculty of Science marked the onset of the modernization of French-language scientific institutions in Canada. French Canadians gained access to scientific programs leading to graduate school diplomas.

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Audio excerpt
Rural Wakeup (2-minute, 40-second excerpt)

Broadcast: 1949-10-04
Subject: The Raspberry
Source: Société Radio-Canada

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In the 1920s, a new means of mass communication emerged: radio. In the beginning, radio was not used to air information. Rather, it was a source of entertainment and a means of educating the public. The microphone served as a platform for orators, artists and politicians to parade their talents or voice their opinions. Soon, an educational aspect was added through the cooperation of universities, provincial governments and some broadcasters: scientific culture shows for school- and college-age clienteles. Two flagship shows included L'Heure provinciale (1929-1939) at CKAC and Radio-Collège (1941-1956) at Radio-Canada.

Radio-Canada and its English-language counterpart, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), played a major role in the development of science journalism in Canada. Through its mission of public broadcasting corporation, this national network produced a large number of scientific and cultural shows.

Caen (Calvados)

Social and Historic Context

After the First World War (1914-1918), military personnel returned home. But unemployment was high, and the return of former soldiers aggravated the problem. Major labour disputes took place until the mid 1920s, causing significant economic loss. Thereafter, the economy was stimulated by low prices and inflation. Pulp and paper, hydroelectricity, mines and the automobile ranked among industrial sectors in expansion [...]

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Science during This Era

Scientific research at the university level truly began to expand after the First World War, in particular through the efforts of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), created in 1916. For example, in 1930, the NRC funded 62 grants: 33 were earmarked for McGill University, one for a French researcher in Quebec and the rest for elsewhere across Canada [...]

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Journalism during This Era

The pages of major daily newspapers reported facts and described events: the newspaper press was now well established. Some newspapers remained politically affiliated (Montréal-Matin, Le Canada), but their circulation was somewhat limited [...]

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Treatment of Science by the Media

From 1920 to 1945, the press praised the merits of scientists, and science was a source of wonderment for the public. In several daily newspapers, in particular La Presse, physicians and scientists were often presented as individuals of superior intelligence and infinite goodness committed to the wellbeing of humanity, etc.[...]

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