WCSJ 2009 News

Journalists Who Change the World

Source: WFSJ Science Journalism blog

We talk these days about the future of science journalism, by which we usually mean its migration from traditional habitats – printed words on paper, radio stations on the dial, television networks – into the 21st century landscape. Most of us see that landscape as a technological one, transformed by blogging and webcasting, Twitter and Facebook, and possibilities to be yet invented.

But as journalism evolves into a product of new media, it’s important to also consider not only what will change – also what we should keep. Lovers of language, who can turn an ordinary event into a compelling story, are still needed. Talented science writers who make a complex experiment accessible to those without science training remain invaluable. And investigative reporters provide an essential service that, I hope, will never disappear.

I was reminded of the last point during last month’s World Conference of Science Journalists in London, where I moderated a panel called “Four Journalists Who Changed the World.” It’s an ambitious concept, don’t you think? Yet, the journalists on the panel – from Nigeria, Canada, Japan and the United States – lived up to the billing.

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Theres life in the old dog yet: in defense of journalism

Source: On Science and the Media

Any notion that the 6th World Conference of Science Journalists held in London last week was going to be a tame, cosy affair was shattered at the opening plenary when a row broke out as to what constitutes science journalism. Jeff Nesbit, Director of the office of legislative affairs at the US National Science Foundation, which is a bit like our research councils, offered his prescription for the current crisis in science journalism – the scientific community should step in and do it ourselves. And this was not just a provocative idea – we learned that no sooner had Jeff heard that CNN had closed their entire science unit, than he hired two of them to write and film content for NSF’s websites. When I leapt to my feet to describe what he was doing as ‘science communication’ not ‘science journalism’, Nesbitt fought back with two contentious statements. Firstly he argued that because the two people he hired are journalists with journalistic training that they will still be doing journalism for NSF. And secondly that we no longer have the luxury of this academic debate – science journalism is disappearing before our eyes and the scientific community is obliged to step in and replace it.

For me the issue became the defining theme of the Conference and raised its head in almost every session. Most people spent the week trying to tell me that arrival of new media and the pressures on science journalism around the world mean that the lines between journalism and PR have now been blurred. Press officers tweeting all day and creating video clips for their University websites told me that the term press officer has become a misnomer as they spend as much time creating ‘content’ as helping journalists to create it. And science writers who have moved from national newspapers to write for popular science blogs insisted that they are engaged in the same craft. But just because we are blurring lines doesn’t mean those lines no longer exist. And nor does it mean that we should not pause at this time of change and reflect on whether those lines are important to maintain. One of the delegates challenged Nesbitt to give the money spent hiring the ex CNN reporters to CNN to keep them on. Unrealistic maybe, but a neat way of making the point that we have some choices here. Faced with a crisis in journalism we can look for ways to shore it up and defend it, or we can simply declare it in terminal decline and set about replacing it.

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WCSJ makes its mark with the satirical news media

Source: News of the News

See below coverage by News of the News – a fake news blog:

WELL I NEVER, Do-As-You-Please, Wednesday (NotScientist) — The minister for science and innovation, Lord Paul Drayson, has praised the high standards of science journalism at the sixth World Conference of Science Journalists in London yesterday. About 900 delegates attended the conference to congratulate each other on the remarkable quality of their press release transcription skills.

Jerry Lewis and Stella Stevens in The Nutty Professor“The public relies on dependable science journalism to understand the forces shaping the modern world,” said Lord Drayson. “Your work covering the things that really matter, such as pseudo-evolutionary explanations of current fashion trends, what will give us cancer this week, scaring the crap out of people over the MMR vaccine so their kids die of birth defects from measles instead and why fellatio is required for female health helps people make important choices about their lives and builds a vital gap between scientists and the public. I mean bridge.”

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Best of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2009

Source: ABSW

So the World Conference of Science Journalists is over, and what a conference it was. Around 950 science writers, journalists and communicators gathered over three days at London's Westminster Central Hall for debate, discussions, diatribes and, of course, plenty of drink.

With a delightfully packed schedule and the repressing heat of an unusually sunny London week, you'd be forgiven if bits of it passed you by in a bit of a haze.

Thankfully, on the Internet nothing goes unrecorded. So here's a compilation of blogs, tweets and resources by ABSW members to help you to catch up on, or just relive, those heady three days. (This is by no means a comprehensive list, so please feel free to point out further reports and resources in the comments).

A big thanks to Julie Clayton, Sally Robbins and Fiona Fox for organising the fantastic programme.

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News just in ... science reporting is still alive and kicking the world over

Source: The Scotsman

THE US news network CNN has axed its entire science staff, there have been reports of newspapers across the United States ditching their science correspondents and questions have been asked over the longevity of specialist science magazines. So it was with some trepidation that about 900 writers, broadcasters and communicators gathered in London this week for the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ).

But the pessimists didn't have to wait long for some good news: colleagues at newspapers, websites and radio and TV stations across Africa and Asia relayed stories of growth in their native markets, with a growing appetite for science stories in the developing world. At one of the break-out sessions, Nalaka Gunawardene, co-founder and director of Television for Education Asia Pacific – a media foundation – said one of the most popular TV programmes in Sri Lanka was Macro World, in which the presenters used miniature cameras to explore the weird and wonderful creatures that made up the natural world.

Read the full story: News just in ... science reporting is still alive and kicking the world over