Striking a Balance between Science and Arts: Mass Media Dilemma in Reporting Health and Environmental Issues

Article excerpt

Abstract

Not many people realize that the mass media carry two significant values in their content. One is the value of arts that very much represents the subjective thoughts; and the other is the value of science, which emphasizes precision, accuracy and accountability. Both values reside in the content of the mass media that very much become a precursor and inspiration for government and society to achieve their goals. Nevertheless, both are contradictory in nature. From the general semanticist point of view the words of science could bring objectivity of the mass media to achievable heights. Whilst the words of arts, which are emotion laden yet exhilarating, could lead to human prejudices or perhaps human enlightenment. Although extremely subjective in nature, the arts denote the artistic creation of man that without them, the mass media could hardly persist. On the other hand, news and information of scientific in nature such as pollution, natural catastrophes, diseases and medical discoveries as well as environmental disturbances highlighted by the mass media are seldom being disputed. Hence, based on a content analysis study of four Malaysian mainstream newspapers, this paper will dwell into the plight of the Malaysian print media in trying to create a balance between arts and science especially in communicating health and environmental issues. From a general semantics perspective, the paper will also look at the use and misuse of words by print media practitioners in imparting arts and science messages.

Keywords: Precision, Arts, Science, General semantics, Environment

1. Introduction

Science and arts writing have been covered by the mass media ever since people learn about news. Today more than ever, people throughout the world are concerned about what the mass media are saying about science and arts. They are concerned about highly technical areas of science and medicine. They want to know why things happen the way they do or what advances in science and technology that can help them have a better quality of life.

At the same time people are also concerned about what is happening around them. Human sufferings due to wars and natural catastrophes, epidemics and pandemics, arm deployment and peace negotiations, war crimes and crimes in the streets such as robberies and thefts, murders, killings and rapes, accidents, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and floods, toxic wastes and malpractices, and other environmental problems - all these and others are mixtures of science and arts-oriented news that will always trigger the interests of media audience and readers. Indeed, the mass media, whether local or foreign, will carry both news categories in the content of their on-air news or news columns to attract more readers and audience, which will indirectly attract the advertisers.

But not many people realize that the mass media carry two significant values in their content. One is the value of arts that very much represents the subjective thoughts; and the other is the value of science, which emphasizes precision, accuracy and accountability. Both values exist in the content of the mass media that very much become a forerunner and inspiration for government and society to achieve their goals. Nevertheless, both are contradictory in nature. From the general semanticist point of view the words of science could bring objectivity of the mass media to attainable heights (Hayakawa 1979; Mohd Rajib 1984). On the contrary, the words of arts, which are emotion laden yet enlivening, could lead to human prejudices or perhaps human enlightenment.

For instance, environmental problem in a small country like Malaysia, such as haze, always put us in a daze. This is so, when the news takes a human angle, particularly emphasizing on the suffering of people with asthma or other breathing problems. We will be easily angered by irresponsible acts of individuals from neighboring countries who are occasionally causing our country's haze index (in this case Malaysia) to escalate. …