How Political Science Can Help Journalism (and Still Let Journalists Be Journalists)

Brendan Nyhan 1  and John Sides 2
  • 1 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 2 George Washington University

Political scientists frequently lament the media’s neglect of our research. Although reporters should have a basic understanding of the field, it is not reasonable to expect them to restate the conclusions of academic research on a daily basis. Moreover, it is not always clear how research findings apply within the conventions of political journalism, which is context-specific and episodic in nature. In this article, we propose an approach that would bring more political science to journalism while respecting the professional norms and organizational constraints of news organizations. Although academic research is not always conducive to the demands of the news cycle, political science provides a novel perspective that could improve reporting in five respects: putting episodic developments in a structural context; providing new angles on the news; countering spin about the effects of events by elites; better describing historical trends and comparisons; and identifying known unknowns in politics.

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Journal + Issues

This journal provides a forum for professionally informed commentary on issues affecting contemporary American politics. This includes but is not limited to issues engaging parties, elections, and political participation; the news media, interest groups, Congress, the Presidency, and the Courts; trends in public finance, presidential popularity, congressional productivity; in contemporary, historical, or comparative perspective.