REPORT: Talking about science and badgers

The news stories surrounding a controversial badger cull made use of only a small circle of select scientists, writes Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) fellow and BBC journalist Helen Briggs. Briggs studied some 160 articles, columns and editorials published in UK newspapers regarding the topic. The author also conducted interviews with both journalists covering the topic and scientists interviewed by them.

Most of the stories quoted government sources and/or anti-culling advocates, while scientists were used in about one third of the pieces. Out of the scientists, 14 were named. Most of them were affiliated with universities, while only one retired scientist was affiliated with a government institution. Briggs speculates this might be due to journalists’ aversion to trusting government sources in scientific matters.

Briggs’ study has been published as a RISJ fellowship paper, and it can be freely read online here.

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