Latin American science journalists more upbeat about their profession than those in the U.S. and Europe, report says

By Zach Dyer

Science journalists in Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world have a more positive outlook on their profession than their peers in the West, according to a new report.

If there is a sense of crisis in science journalism, this is mainly perceived in USA, Canada and Europe, but less so in Latin American, Asia, and North and Southern Africa,” says the Global Science Journalism Report, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

Many surveyed say they do not feel journalism is a “dying profession,” according to CJR, but admit the business is in crisis. Newspaper circulation has been strong in Latin America during recent years, especially in Brazil, bucking the trend in many industrialized nations.

This has not insulated journalists in the region from layoffs, however. Latin American science journalists are more concerned about job security than other regions surveyed. “Precarious working conditions are the norm for about half the world’s science journalists,” says the report.

Despite the anxiety around job security, most science journalists in the region have a positive outlook for their field, compared to their counterparts in the West, where many surveyed say they do not see themselves working in the field in the next five years.

While science writers surveyed in Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world “happily recommend the career to younger generations,” many would-be reporters aren’t taking their advice. Besides economic pressures on the field, journalism schools in Mexico struggle to stay open in the face of continued violence against the press.

Latin American science writers join their partners in the U.S. and Canada in supporting the idea of a not-for-profit science desk to fill any gaps left by mainstream media. They favored national or international charitable organizations to fund such a project over government or corporate benefactors.

“It is an historical irony that when society is most in need of high quality science communication (trend 2), its foundation of independent professionalism is being eroded (trend 1),” lamented the report.

CJR pointed out that the report admits a bias towards the “Global South” and likely underrepresents respondents from the U.S., Canada and Europe. The survey was tilted toward Latin America, with 353 responses, compared to the next highest sample, Europe/Russia, at 163. Only 31 science journalists were surveyed in the U.S. and Canada, according to CJR.

The report was a combination of several surveys conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics, Museu da Vida, a science museum in Brazil responsible for the Latin American portion of the report, and SciDev.net. The report surveyed 953 journalists in total from the North and South America, Europe, Russia, Asia and Africa.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.