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STRUCTURING THE SCIENCE BEAT

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Abstract:

Science journalism, as one specialisation within journalism, has undergone remarkable changes in the past two decades; not only in content but also in the way work in the newsroom is structured. This paper takes a closer look at science beats and their organisational variance. Observational studies conducted in German newsrooms are reviewed and concepts from organisational theory are discussed. Two heuristic concepts are introduced for the analysis of journalistic work processes in newsrooms, the beat concept and the mental editorial plan. The paper then constructs four ideal types of science beats to describe possible development trends within newsrooms: the current news science beat, the creative science beat, the audience- and business-oriented science journalism team, and the science beat as a specialised correspondents' office. The latter cooperates with various other beats or departments and is engaged in dynamic topic teams. For this new work-structure, the paper argues, a high level of journalistic proficiency is demanded of science journalists to sustain and improve the quality of science journalism in changing newsrooms.

Keywords: journalistic profession; newsroom; organisational theory; science beat; science journalism; science journalism in Germany

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2010.530984

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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