A “Scientist” on the Radio: Understanding the Framing of STEM to the Public
News media presentations of STEM (and particularly science) in various formats have been critiqued for the many ways by which they misrepresent both the facts of the discipline and the practices of the discipline and the researchers in them. Another issue is that the material is presented in a format – basically a one-way transmission – with usually little opportunity for questions by the recipients (i.e., readers, listeners, viewers, etc.) to be addressed when they don’t understand something. One news media format which might allow this dialogic activity is the radio call-in show format which is structured so that the public can ask questions of a “scientist” with the opportunity for follow-up questions to address what are discontinuities in the listener’s understanding. In this paper we document the processes by which listener interests ultimately end up discussed in the radio broadcast and what influences the “science” that is presented on-air. Our analysis reports the ways in which the STEM topics and content are mediated by radio station personnel, often times distorting the factual content available to the public and misrepresenting the practices of the research fields, as they engage in information management practices which are typical of opinion-driven shows (such as those on the topics of politics or sports) which are designed to create controversy and drama to increase ratings.