WCSJ 2009 Session Reviews

Investigative science reporting

Does investigative science reporting exist? An emphatic “yes” was the answer from a WCSJ panel of experts, who provided numerous tips on how to carry out investigations in today’s turbulent media environment.

Recipe for a Disaster

The recipe for feeding and supporting the world’s growing population will require using all the ingredients available in the scientific pantry, a group of agricultural experts contended at a WCSJ 2009 panel.

Sci-Fi

2009-07-02 06:00

It's just what I always suspected – science journalists are really would-be science fiction writers in disguise, desperate to release their inner nerd on the world of creative writing. Perhaps I’m generalising, but if the turnout for the parallel session on science fiction is anything to go by then the links between the two disciplines are alive and well.

It was standing room only as Oliver Morton – Nature’s chief news and features editor and a wearer of fine sideburns – introduced his panel, including science fiction writers Paul McAuley and Geoff Ryman.

Reporting About Climate Change

When it comes to climate change journalism, keeping both sides in proper balance is difficult--but never impossible. That was a key outcome of the workshop ‘Reporting on Climate Change’, held on Monday 29 June at the Geographical Society in London as part of the 6th World Conference of Science Journalists.

“Put a human face to climate change”

01. Reporting about climate change

On a hot day in London, journalists from around 20 countries gathered on Monday 29th June at the Royal Geographic Society to attend the workshop ‘reporting about climate change’. Among the attendees were print and broadcast reporters and researchers on science communication. The session was supported by UNESCO-HQ Paris and the UK Commission for UNESCO.
Many themes were discussed during the day, including the most recent science in the field of climate change and the state of international negotiations in the run up to the UN meeting in Copenhagen.

Mike Shanahan, of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IEED), and James Fahn, of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network coordinated the workshop. They also gave tips about how to find different angles when reporting about climate change.

One of the speakers, the journalist Jenni Metcalfe, of the Australian Science Communicators organization, pointed out that it is important “to put a human face to climate change”. How? That is the challenge! She said that for example one way is to interview people affected by floods or droughts, or even show that scientists are ‘human’.

John Mitchell, Director of Climate Science at the UK Met Office and Chris Rapley, Director of the Science Museum in London (and former director of the British Antarctic Survey) answered many questions from journalists about the research and observation of the greenhouse effect. How to deal with scientific uncertainty was one of many topics in discussion.

Mitchell, for example, has been studying climate for 36 years. His colleague, Rapley, also has a long career in this field. “Some people ask ‘do you believe in climate change?’. I answer that it is not a religion, it is based in evidences,” said Chris Rapley. Liz Kalaugher, Gustavo Faleiros, Saleemul Huq and Bob Ward also participated as speakers.

Strategies to deal with climate change in the mitigation and adaptation areas were also a hot topic. There were two experts who talked about reducing emissions of green house gases caused by deforestation and about development of clean technologies.
During the whole workshop, delegates had the opportunity to ask plenty of questions. At the end of the workshop, there was time also to work in groups to talk about advantages and obstacles when reporting in this field.

UNESCO funded this workshop, and the coordinators provided all the participants a book with two CDs with tools and information to learn more about climate change.

Laura García Oviedo