|M.Sc Student||Barel Yael|
|Subject||Characteristics of Science News Coverage in Israel|
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Ayelet Baram-Tsabari|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
Modern society presents its citizens with many day-to-day needs that influence the quality of life and are linked to science and technology such as transportation, medical information and nutrition. Given that science is a major facet of modern life, and the mass media are its greatest form of dissemination, it is crucial to examine what information is conveyed to the public via the media.
Most of the studies concerning the extent and nature of science coverage in the mass media concentrated on a specific medium or scientific field. In Israel, no systematic research has been done to test and evaluate the representation of science in the news media. The main goal of this study is to systematically examine the scope and characteristics of scientific items in the Hebrew-speaking news media, in an attempt to identify and characterize the scientific information the Israeli public is exposed to and uses to make its decisions.
A database of science-related news items published in the radio, television, print and online news media was constructed over a period of six consecutive months, from October 2013 to April 2014. Sources were chosen as a function of their popularity, extent of exposure and other key factors (e.g. public vs. commercial channels). These were manually scanned for scientific news items.
Over the study period, a total of 1064 items were collected and cataloged from the sampled media-sources. Overall the frequency of science items in the scanned sources comprised of about 1.8% of the news items, and 1.3% of the volume (pages, number of words, airtime) of the news published at that time. These numbers are substantially lower than the coverage of science reported in the UK and the US in the media, which stand on 4.6% (in the public broadcast) and 3% (public and commercial media), respectively. As in previous studies, the most common science topics presented in the Israeli news were life science (32.8%) and medicine (25.8%) and was found mostly in newspapers (44.3%). In the majority of cases, the science items described local (28%) or American-based (30.1%) research, that study new (39.2%) and basic research ( 55% ). Items relied on a scientific source of information (a scientist or a peer-review magazine) in more than half of the cases.
The analysis of these features contributes to the understanding of the science presented to the public through the mediation of the Israeli news media. According to the findings, the representation of science in the Israeli media appears to be mostly positive and uncritical. On one hand, this may color science as a source of national pride and promotes its citizens' quality of life. On the other hand, depicting science as positive without raising ethical, accuracy or procedural questions may challenge the development of critical thinking in the public regarding science and its outcomes.
The public is interested in hearing about science and depends on the mass media to acquire this information. Surveys shows that the public demand for science is not met by the media, a finding supported by this study. Hence, the media should increase and promote the coverage of science to merit the expectation of the public.