History of Science Journalism

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1970-1990

MORE CRITICAL SCIENCE JOURNALISM

Science journalism now a recognized speciality

Science journalists were increasing in numbers and grouped into professional associations. Science journalism was now a recognized specialty. Science occupied a prominent position both socially and economically. In La Presse and the Star, space allotted to science in 1975 was eight times greater than in 1945.

John F. Kennedy Space Center

Audio excerpt
Radio-journal (1-minute, 50-second excerpt)

Broadcast: 1969-07-20
Subject: Report on the Moon Landing of Apollo 11
Host: Louis Desroches
Source: Société Radio-Canada

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Setting Foot on the Moon

Science properly positioned in the media

The market for science magazines was thriving, but only Québec Science and Canadian Geographic would survive.

On television, as on radio, science shows no longer sought to educate. Rather, the emphasis was placed on contemporary issues having an impact on the lives of citizens.

Increasingly, government supported science and science journalism through programs and grant agencies.

Journalists seek to defend the public interest

Science journalism in the 1970s focused on the spinoffs created by scientific activity and technology. Journalism sought to contribute to democratic life and the protection of the public interest while covering the development of the national economy and scientific institutions. This increasingly complex mandate was completely in line with the 'public affairs journalism' prevalent at the time among the information media. Public affairs journalism covered state business, political life and social issues, going beyond news and delving deeply into subjects using reporting, analysis and inquiries.

In the wake of revelations on the harmful effects of thalidomide, a drug prescribed to pregnant women to alleviate nausea, and the pesticide, DDT, several journalists turned a more critical eye toward scientific activity and technology.

The emerging environmental crisis further heightened this increasingly critical journalistic approach. The environment became the topic of the day, and many issues were of concern to both journalists and the public: energy and nuclear arms, pollution, acid rain, the deteriorating ozone layer, industrial illnesses, etc. A somewhat militant environmental journalism began to emerge in the media.

Social and Historic Context

Children of the post-war baby boom were now young adults. They were educated and committed pacifists, sovereignists, ecologists, etc. Causes and social movements were numerous. University campuses were hotbeds in several countries such as North America, Latin America and Europe. Student demonstrations reached their peak in May 1968 [...]

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Science during This Era

Because of the context of a growing environmental crisis, ecology began to overshadow botany and zoology. The focus now was on the study of ecosystems and the impact of human activities on the environment. Molecular biology and genetics superseded the study of classifications of the living. Physical sciences such as aeronautics, astrophysics, particle physics and nuclear physics (following the energy crisis of the 1970s) occupied the pole position in research [...]

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Journalism during This Era

Journalists benefited from the professional recognition acquired over the last decade. Journalists in Quebec grouped together in 1968 under the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec [...]

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Treatment of Science by the Media

At the onset of the 1970s, an entire network of science journalists was in place in the press and on television and radio. They followed in the wake of the first generation of science journalists who had carved out a niche for themselves in Canadian media since the 1950s [...]

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