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“It is not economic prosperity but peace that guarantees press freedom.” That is the main conclusion that Reporters Without Borders draws from its 2008 version of the Press Freedom Index that was published on Wednesday. It is comforting to know that money is not the most important driving force that enables journalists to do their jobs without censureship. Especially in these times of economic turmoil.

Economic prosperity and science have a strong link. Science is a driving force for technological innovations that can lead to economic growth. But does that mean that economic prosperity has a positive correlation to good science coverage in the national media? 

The answer appears to be no. Just look at the rate at which science journalists at newspapers in the USA, the country with the highest GDP, are loosing their jobs and have been for years. Fuelled by the financial crisis. Whereas in fact science, innovation, and specialized science journalists reporting on both, could help us battle the financial downward spiral that holds us captive. 

We need a Science News Index to investigate the influence of science journalism on society. This index could relate the number of science stories to the total number of journalists, or to the total number of specialized science journalists, or per capita even. 

What would be the result if the number of science stories is related to GDP? Even though science, and consequently science journalists, are the driving force of the economy, it might turn out that science journalism is considered a luxury article.

This post also appears on the Science Journalism Blog of the WFSJ.