Mapping the Technology Beat: Technology Reporting at the Chicago Tribune

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Virginia Tech


Since the field's inception, Science and Technology Studies (STS) has grappled with the task of creating suitable definitions of the terms "science" and "technology," but the discourse has become cyclical and unproductive. By focusing on real-world applications of these terms, through a case study of the technology "beat" at the Chicago Tribune, this research attempts to correct that misstep.

At the Tribune, as in other major American newspapers, technology reporters operate within the business section, whereas science reporters are located within the general news section of the paper. Through personal interviews and an examination of science and technology articles, it became clear that reporters see "science" as pure research, whereas "technology" signifies the application of that knowledge toward a specific end. Though science and technology reporters cover similar topics, they do so in distinct ways with disparate goals. Moreover, technology journalism is actually more complex than the reporters recognize, as these articles discuss a variety of themes beyond commercial application, including project funding, administration and even research.

This thesis illustrates that a disconnect exists between STS scholarship and the world of journalism. If STS scholars desire to remain relevant, they must embrace a stronger interaction with the journalism community. Not only should STS welcome more journalists into its fold, through educational programming and increased dialogue, but STS academics must also participate in the journalistic process themselves, by using their STS perspectives to write provocative articles for the general newspaper reader. Readers — and journalists — would benefit from the critical viewpoint that STS offers, and journalism can challenge and invigorate the scholarship in a way that has been lacking in recent years.



Journalism, Science, Argonne, Business, Communication