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Beyond Cheerleading: Navigating the Boundaries of Science Journalism in South Africa

Franks, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-9449-2725, Joubert, M., Wells, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-0329-2120 & van Zuydam, L. (2022). Beyond Cheerleading: Navigating the Boundaries of Science Journalism in South Africa. Journalism Studies, doi: 10.1080/1461670X.2022.2141820


Science journalism faces an issue that is part of a bigger picture of media change. The economic pressures which have seen shrinking resources available for reporting news are contrasted by the relentless rise of corporate communication and public relations. Institutional science communication has become a booming industry, operating, at least partially, by bypassing the traditional roles of journalists.
To interrogate how science journalists perceive the impact of these changes on their professional roles, as well as how they navigate relationships with scientists and institutional science communicators, we conducted in-depth interviews with experienced South African science journalists. Our paper summarises the results of this study, including how journalists perceive changes in their professional identities and responsibilities. We analyse the interview data and explore the extent to which science journalists perceive themselves as ‘cheerleaders’ for science, in contrast to critical investigators tasked with holding science and scientists to account, as well as how they operate in a world of well-endowed corporate science communication. We situate these interview findings against the theoretical background of boundary work and recent discussions about the blurring boundaries between science journalism and science communication.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Publisher Keywords: science journalism; science PR; institutional communication; science communication
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
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