History of Science Journalism

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1990-...

SPECIALIZED NETWORKS AND THE INTERNET: NEW MEDIA FOR SCIENCE JOURNALISM

Contemporary science connects us to the entire world, announcing emerging diseases, describing planet-wide climate issues and revealing our genetic makeup. To the local public, the science journalist explains a universe undergoing fast-paced change.

Technological advances, particularly in biotechnologies, medical technologies and pharmacology raise ethical issues. There is also intense competition in the scientific world where financial interests are increasingly at the forefront. Private investors often advance huge sums for advertising and public relations to bolster the research they are financing. In this context, journalists must be on the lookout for misinformation and conflict of interest.

On television and radio, shows aired by Radio-Canada and CBC remain the mainstays of science journalism. The Québec Science magazine and the Agence Science-Presse are holding steady, while L'Actualité, the leading news magazine in Quebec, is devoting more space to science.

Yet, daily newspapers and general interest television networks have experienced economic difficulties resulting in lay-offs among journalists. The science sector has suffered from these cutbacks. Positions for science journalists are increasingly rare in these 'traditional' media. In some daily newspapers, there are fewer 'science' pages.

However, science journalism has benefitted from the arrival of new media: the Internet and specialized television networks. For example, the magazine L'Actualité and the press group GESCA now propose blogs by their respective science journalists who can immediately write commentaries on the latest scientific news.

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Audio excerpt
The Light Years
(3-minute, 10-second excerpt)

Broadcast: 1997-03-02
Subject: Cloning of an Adult Sheep
Host: Yannick Villedieu
Source: Société Radio-Canada

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« Hello Dolly! »
Silence, on clone!

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Video excerpt
Discovery
(2-minute, 30-second excerpt)

Broadcast: November 22, 1998
Subject: Global Warming
Host: Charles Tisseyre
Source: Société Radio-Canada

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Global Warming on the Horizon

Social and Historic Context

May 9, 1986. The Liberal government of Robert Bourassa presents its 'minimum' conditions for Quebec to accept possible constitutional offers from the federal government and other provinces [...]

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Science during This Era

As never before, scientific research allows use of technology on human life and the environment and the phenomenon raises ethical questions. Several issues have spurred controversy, in particular genetically modified organisms (GMO), assisted reproductive techniques, cloning, stem cells and nanotechnologies [...]

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Journalism during This Era

New information and communications technologies (ICT) have changed the media. Thanks to cable and satellite distribution, specialized networks now compete with general interest stations. The expansion of the Internet in the late 1990s heightened media specialization and the fragmentation of public audiences [...]

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Treatment of Science by the Media

In 2002, the Conseil de la science et de la technologie du Québec noted two things: first, the distribution of scientific information was declining – for example, in 1995-1996, major daily newspapers in Quebec published 33% fewer news items on university research than in 1980-1981; secondly, scientific and technological news lacked diversity and its handling left much to be desired [...]

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