Covering Controversial Science: Improving Reporting on Science and Public Policy

By Cristine Russell

A paper by Cristine Russell, spring 2006 fellow, surveys the state of science journalism, and finds that as the pace of new developments in science and technology quickens, journalists are increasingly confronted with covering complicated technical information as well as the potential social, legal, religious, and political consequences of scientific research. More coverage of the complex intersection of science and public policy is needed to help citizens understand the issues, but the resources to do so are limited: print and electronic media have fewer skilled staff science reporters than in the past. At the same time, journalism programs are turning out more trained science reporters than ever before. Russell suggests opportunities for science and policy reporting to improve, new approaches to journalism education and on-the-job training in science coverage, and guidelines for better coverage of science and public policy.

Download the paper (PDF).