Getting the Public Excited about Science through News Stories about Global Sporting Events

Monday, 15 December 2014
Abbey Dufoe, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, United States
News is all about opportunity, and no topic can pull an audience together across ages and countries better than international sports competitions. Sports news excites people, generating conversations at work and at home throughout the duration of the competition. The popularity of these sporting events engages the general public through print and video channels, but it also offers the opportunity for news beyond the competition results - specifically, how science and scientific principles and properties tie in to the sport. Take the Olympics and the World Cup, for example. News sites were more motivated to write and run stories about the aerodynamics of a soccer ball or science behind Olympic bobsleds because these topics are timely: timeliness is one of the most important reasons news stories get written and published. And analysis of even a small sample of news stories and the language used will show why the news organization posted the story. Since the science content is being translated for the general public, the topics can provide a more general explanation of the science behind sporting events, equipment and the act of doing the sport.

But beyond international sporting events, even the opening day of baseball, first night of ice hockey, the start of football and the beginning of basketball season provide opportunities for news organizations to provide science news to the public. Scientists need to get ready to collaborate with journalists to tap into the next big sporting event - Super Bowl XLIX. Although it has not been determined which teams are playing yet, scientists can start preparing content-rich stories on the physics of a football, the climate of Phoenix, Arizona, and the green mission of the University of Phoenix Stadium (the location of Super Bowl 2015). This is an opportunity for scientists and media outlets to add science content knowledge to the hype of the event. After the Super Bowl comes the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which has already been in the news with reporters covering water contamination issues and sustainable construction projects.