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Science journalism for development in Vietnam: a multi-facet investigation of issues and challenges and its implications for the Global South.

Tran, M., 2021. Science journalism for development in Vietnam: a multi-facet investigation of issues and challenges and its implications for the Global South. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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Context: Although science journalism plays a central role for development in the Global South, it has not reached a high level of professionalism. However, the literature on science journalism in developing countries is still thin. The majority of existing studies have used science journalism in developed countries as a benchmark to evaluate that in the developing world and to propose reporting practices that might not be entirely relevant to the latter. Furthermore, an overwhelming amount of research employs content analysis to explore the tip of the iceberg, but less attention is paid to the complexity in the process of news production, including news sources, media ownership and control, journalistic ethics and strategy, political implication and interest groups’ influence. The lack of in-depth analysis shows a gap in understanding the nuance of science reporting in the developing world. Aims: This study uses Vietnam as a research site to gain empirical insights into the current status of science journalism professionalism in a developing. First, it aims to uncover how Vietnamese science journalists perceive their professional roles in relation to Vietnam’s development processes and the key obstacles and challenges to their ability to perform such roles and to achieve professionalism. Second, the work investigates news representation of two scientific controversies, artificial intelligence and genetically modified organism, to examine the content practice of Vietnamese science journalism and its implications for the country’s national development. Placing the findings in the context of other developing countries, it assesses the implications of weaknesses in the Global South’s science journalism for global science debates and international development efforts. Methods: A mixed-method approach was employed. In the first phase of our study, semi-structured interview with 26 science and reporters was used to examine the local journalists’ perception and practice, addressing how Vietnamese journalists perceive and perform their roles. Particularly, the thesis attempted to detail the processes of their news gathering, sourcing and framing, representing science events and issues as well as their attitude towards the science reality in Vietnam. From this, the second phase of the study employed a mixture of content analysis and interview data to investigate how such journalistic role perceptions and performances are reflected in science news output, through the case of global science controversies. Thematic content analysis was employed to elucidate how the beliefs, attitudes, knowledge and practices of Vietnamese science journalists manifest in their science news output. By analysing the presence, meanings and relationships among patterns of science news stories, the study would capture the writers’ perception and behaviours and provide insights into how the newsroom frame and shape public understanding of science. The characteristics of science news found in the content analysis were then linked to interviewed science journalists’ professional attitudes and capabilities to explore potential causal relationships in science journalism in Vietnam. Findings: Data from in-depth interviews show that despite their high expectation for science journalism, the media fail to promote public understanding of and engagement in science. Vietnamese journalists lack the essential professional knowledge and skills to deal with science events and issues. Having reported science for some time, several still struggle to define what science journalism is or should be about. They generally disregard the local relevance and importance of controversial science developments, and when they pay attention, they rely heavily on foreign sources and are uncritically skewed toward benefits at the expense of proper reporting of risks, including risks that are highlighted in the country’s development. Also, with less than enthusiastic support from science-unfriendly news editors and executives and with a rampancy of unethical practice, they tend to sensationalise science to attract the audience, sometimes with some disastrous consequences. Added to these are a number of challenges and obstacles from outside the newsroom, including insufficient and reluctant cooperation of local scientists, political control on science and policy reporting, and commercial influences. Further analysis into how their perceptions and performances are reflected in media coverage of genetically modified organism (GMO) and artificial intelligence (AI) shows that Vietnamese science news fails the job of engaging the public with controversial science developments that bear implications for their national development. During the two-year examination, Vietnamese newspapers do cover GMO and AI, but are predominantly event-driven with inadequate focus on their controversial aspects. There is a lack of critical reporting to inform and engage the public in the debate over GMO and AI’s potential adverse implications as the media give more preference to discussion over GMO and AI economic prospects and scientific progress. Accordingly, news coverage of both issues is associated with more benefits to risks. Despite these similarities, news coverage of GMO is dominated by foreign source whereas local journalists publish more domestic stories about AI. However, few international stories are localised into indigenous context, making GMO and AI less relevant to Vietnamese public daily concern. Conclusions: Combining the data from in-depth interview and content analysis, the thesis argues that similar to other developing countries, science journalism in Vietnam is far from achieving a necessary level professionalism for developmental causes. Thus, it is in need for more appreciation by all stakeholders, especially news executives and the science establishment, of the importance of science journalism for development. Further, placing the data in the context of Global South, the thesis calls for more serious investment in capacity building, especially through training and mentoring, for science journalists in the South to fulfil their mission for national development.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
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Uncontrolled Keywords:science journalism; science communication; development; media representation; media coverage; genetically modified organism (GMO); artificial intelligence (AI); Vietnam
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:35891
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:10 Aug 2021 14:51
Last Modified:01 Sep 2023 01:08


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