Do newspapers preferentially cover biomedical studies involving national scientists?

Public Underst Sci. 2019 Feb;28(2):191-200. doi: 10.1177/0963662518809804. Epub 2018 Oct 29.


News value theory rates geographical proximity as an important factor in the process of issue selection by journalists. But does this apply to science journalism? Previous observational studies investigating whether newspapers preferentially cover scientific studies involving national scientists have generated conflicting answers. Here we used a database of 123 biomedical studies, 113 of them involving at least one research team working in eight countries (Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States). We compiled all the newspaper articles covering these 123 studies and published in English, French, and Japanese languages. In all eight countries, we found that newspapers preferentially covered studies involving a national team. Moreover, these "national" studies on average gave rise to a larger number of newspaper articles than "foreign" studies. Finally, our study resolves the conflict with previous conclusions by providing an alternative interpretation of published observations.

Keywords: biomedical science; issue selection; national bias; national press; science journalism.