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Title: How Arab journalists engage and use statistics to report science : the case of statistics in science news in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt
Author: Alhuntushi, Abdullah
ISNI:       0000 0004 9352 3467
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2020
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This study examines journalists’ use of statistical information within science news. The study focuses on how news reporters use statistics when articulating science news in two broad areas, that of health and technology news in Arab countries, specifically, of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It does so by triangulating content analysis, close reading, expert panel and triangulating this with semi-structured interviews with journalists. Overall, the study found that despite a rich Islamic historical tradition of engagement with science in general and maths in particular in these societies, news reporting of science presents severe deficiencies and gaps when it comes to engaging and using statistics and numbers to articulate science news. The results suggest that a lack of professional autonomy influences the use and articulation of statistical data and attributes this to the constrains that the political system places upon reporters. Indeed, the data indicates that reporters rely too heavily upon official sources for accessing statistics and data and experience important restriction when covering these issues. Equally, it shows that constrains and restrictions often associated with censorship and selfcensorship also hinders their work. However, the study does not attribute to these restrictions all the gaps and deficiencies and points out instead that many of them can be attributed rather to the lack of training and skills, which is a similar situation that the coverage of the same news beat faces in Western countries. Moreover, the study’s results indicate that journalists’ lack of training and skills regarding statistics and science understanding in general affect their abilities to provide sound, comprehensive and critical news coverage of science. The thesis suggests that in Arab societies, science journalism remains overall a deficient professional activity, full of flaws and gaps -including the lack of graphics and visual data to make this information more accessible- when reporting these topics. These gaps include the scarcity of specialized science journalists, general reporters’ lack of knowledge and basic understanding of science and, the lack of public interest in science news. Given also the role of woman in these countries, the study also assesses inter-gender issues around the use of statistics in science reporters. Finally, the study makes recommendations to improve this situation and offers guidance in relation to where further research might go from here in order to advance this research agenda.
Supervisor: Anderson, Chris Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available