Trick or treat?

Halloween Universities in Colombia are using their national newspapers to raise awareness of science in their country. Is that a trick or a treat?


The National University of Colombia publishes a monthly supplement, UN Periódico, which is distributed with the biggest newspaper in the country, El Tiempo. The editors of UN Periódico, select stories from research carried out in any of the eight branches of the National University throughout the country. The researches have to be peer-reviewed, or be the work of respected scientists and have practical or public policy implications for Colombia society, to appear in the science supplement. University communications departments in Colombia have been producing regular newspaper supplements about their scientific research for a decade now.

A recent survey of readers of UN Periódico has found that the science articles are among the most read in the paper and the university has soared in readers' estimation. The survey, which involved over 500 telephone interviews with El Tiempo subscribers, found that public perception of the National University has improved since the last poll in 2008, with over 98% of respondents saying the newspaper has given them a positive perception of the institution.

When asked to rate how credible the university was as a source of information on a scale of 1 to 5, readers rated it at close to 5, and said that reliable information was the most important aspect of the supplement for them.

The study concluded that in 2010 about 20% more readers read about science in this supplement than in 2008.

I think this strategy is both a trick and a treat – it is an excellent trick to treat the general public with reliable results of the latest scientific developments. The public knows they can rely on the results because it has not been subjected to the media sensationalistic interpretation or even exaggeration of results, as is usually the case in most countries. Some might say that science reported directly by scientists is boring, but I argue that, from the above survey, people prefer reliable results.

I searched the Cabdirect database using the terms “news media” and my search returned over 3500 records, including an article by Ward on journalism ethics and climate change reporting. Ward discusses the challenges regarding the reporting of research on climate change when faced with a somewhat abstract code of journalistic ethics.

I also searched Cabdirect using the terms “trick or treat” – just out of curiosity – and my search yielded 6 results, which have nothing to do with the Halloween tradition of trick or treating, but shows that some scientists can be creative when thinking of titles for their articles. However, it you want to know more about Halloween trick or treating, I found this trick or treat article in phrases.org.


Sources
:

Article in SciDev.

El Tiempo

UN Periódico

Ward, B. (2009) Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics (ESEP) 2009 Vol. 9 No. 1 pp. 13-15. 

One thought on “Trick or treat?

  1. Mary November 8, 2010 / 11:05 am

    It is informative !

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