2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM

Earth Science in Print Media, Insights from a Mid-Sized Newspaper

MATTOX, Stephen, Department of Geology, Grand Valley State University, 133 Padnos, Allendale, MI 49401-9403, mattoxs@gvsu.edu

Research was conducted to determine the amount of science presented in a mid-sized newspaper, The Grand Rapids Press, a daily paper with circulation of about 350,000. It is proposed that the science articles a person is likely to encounter in a newspaper is a proxy of the science a person needs to know to be a literate citizen. More than three hundred issues of the Grand Rapids Press from the year 2007 were examined for scientific articles. Quantitative data was collected on number of articles, article length, number and size of pictures and graphs, and location of articles within the paper. Source of the article and general content were also noted. Each scientific article was grouped into one broad area of science and one of nine scientific disciplines: Earth science: (geology, weather, climate, environment, astronomy), life sciences: (biology, bio-medical), and physical sciences: (chemistry and physics). Results indicate that Earth science articles (53 %) occur more frequently than life science (45 %) and physical science (2 %) articles. The most common Earth science topics are: weather, natural disasters, climate change, and the environment. The length of articles and the number of pictures follow a similar pattern. Most graphs are associated with weather. The findings suggest that Earth science should be on equal status as life and physical science in preparing literate citizens. Extrapolating the data to an entire year, this mid-sized newspaper published nearly 318 full pages of science text, with over 2,120 articles, 1,300 pictures, and 3,380 graphs. Although we lack a standard in print media, this effort and content seems like a substantial and appropriate step towards creating or keeping a citizen literate in science.