Media outlets play a key role in spreading scientific knowledge to the public and raising the profile of researchers among their peers. Yet, how journalists choose to present researchers in their stories is poorly understood. Using a comprehensive data set of 223,587 news stories from 288 US outlets reporting on 100,486 research papers across all areas of science, we investigate whether authors’ ethnicities, as inferred from names, are associated with whether journalists explicitly mention them by name. We find substantial disparities in mention rates across ethnic names. Researchers with non-Anglo names, especially those with East Asian and African names, are significantly less likely to be mentioned in their news stories, even with extensive controls for author prestige, semantic content, news outlets, publication venues, and research topics. The disparities are not fully explained by affiliation locations, suggesting that pragmatic factors play only a partial role. Furthermore, among US-based authors, journalists more often use authors’ institutions instead of names when referring to non-Anglo-named authors, suggesting that journalists’ rhetorical choices are also key. Overall, this study finds evidence of ethnic disparities in how often researchers are described in the media coverage of their research, likely affecting thousands of non-Anglo-named scholars in our data alone.

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Handling Editor: Vincent Larivière

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