The popular print media constitute a major source of new information about scientific research for the public and for members of the scientific community outside their areas of expertise. Despite the potential importance of media reports to scientific literacy and public awareness of science, little is known about the content of these articles. We sampled the popular print media (e.g., publications such as those sold at a convenience store or supermarket) and found that the majority of articles about scientific research were in the form of news briefs. We analyzed and compared (a) the content of these news briefs, (b) advice given by experts about how to read media reports about science critically, and (c) university students' requests for information as they evaluated brief reports about research. Some marked discrepancies were found. For example, much of the information that experts advised readers to attend to or that students spontaneously requested were infrequently available in news briefs. Our findings have implications for conceptualizing scientific literacy, as well as for changing science journalism and science education in ways that can enable readers to become effective consumers of scientific information.