Cheerleading with an agenda: how the press covers science


...As it turns out, a surprising amount of science coverage could be described as little more than marketing for elite research centers. A few commentators have acknowledged part of the problem; Nature magazine, for instance, expressed concern that journalists act as 'cheerleaders' who perform a 'public-relations service' for scientists, and so the magazine called on scientists to help the press 'cast a fair but skeptical eye' over the scientific enterprise. But this proposal willfully ignores important changes in the way academic scientists, and universities more broadly, operate. Increasingly corporate-minded universities trade in flashy stories that boost visibility and generate funds. This means scientists aren’t likely to help journalism break its bad habits. As a result, matters of public interest concerning the scientific enterprise, like the troubling trend to privatize academic science, are lost to press cheerleading.

3:AM Magazine (2016)

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Spanish translation by Viento Sur.