The South African press has often been criticised for its lack of science and technology coverage. This is the report of a study which aimed to determine how and to what degree science and technology were reported in a representative sample of the South African press.


The study surveyed the amount of science coverage in 15 South African publications over three months in 2002. Around 1000 science and technology articles were sampled and studied for profiles of the science reporters, tone of reporting, use of visuals, prominence of coverage and of controversies, and the nature of the reported science.

There were a number of key findings:

  • under 2 per cent of the editorial content studied was dedicated to science and technology;
  • a large number of science articles came from foreign sources, including foreign publications and wire services;
  • on average, each of the 15 publications had two science correspondents, although this varied greatly according to the type of publication, and none of the regional publications had dedicated science reporters;
  • overall, the tone of reporting was positive, with 42 per cent of the articles appearing to promote the benefits of science;
  • contrary to expectations, the majority of science articles did not deal with controversy;
  • together, biomedicine, astronomy, HIV/AIDS and technology constituted the majority of coverage (although Mark Shuttleworth's visit to the International Space Station during the sampling period no doubt boosted astronomy ratings).

The report concludes with a recommendation to repeat the study at regular intervals and over longer periods.