Responsibility of media coverage and media attitudes towards science and technology

Van Velden, David Pieter (2008-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Journalism)--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


The media have a great responsibility to communicate more science to improve public understanding of science to help them make sense of their world. The aim should be to popularize scientific ideas and to create a better understanding of how science is daily altering lifestyles and culture. Scientific literacy is an important element of an all-round educated person, and the media need to fill whatever blanks have been left by his or her formal education. The function of the scientific journalist is to transform scientific ideas and results into a form that other groups can understand. This transformation is as much an intra-scientific as well as an extra-scientific matter, and the forms that such communication take and the consequences for intellectual development vary according to the sort of field involved, the audience addressed and the relationship between them. This transformation process must not affect the truth status of scientific knowledge, but it obviously changes the form in which this knowledge is expressed. Scientists need to unveil the secrets of nature, and need to explain to the public that science is always incomplete and incremental, that knowledge is imperfect. Communicating with the media is becoming an obligation, and popularizing of science is becoming an integral part of the professional responsibility of practicing scientists. This overview indicates that there is a need for scientists to increase their communication skills and activities across a broad field and for journalists to increase their understanding and training in science.

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