WCSJ 2009 News

30. Climate change coverage: The messy marriage of science, policy, and politics

In 2009, global climate change heats up on the international stage. The United Nations will attempt to hammer out a new international treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions, culminating in the Copenhagen meeting in December. The world will be watching for a strong signal from the new American President and Congress that the United States is ready to move forward after eight years of inaction by the Bush Administration. At the same time, the issue of climate change has enormous competition from other global issues, from an economic meltdown to food shortages. How well are the media in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world doing in covering the science and policy choices? Or are journalists just falling into old patterns by emphasizing the drama and covering climate change like a political horse race?

24. A picture of health? Who shapes public opinion on pharma?

Strand: Biomedical Strand

Website: Wellcome Trust

The public reputation of the pharmaceutical industry has fallen precipitously over the last decade, according to opinion surveys, along with the industry’s market capitalization. Does the industry deserve this loss in public support, or has the media played a role in it, by portraying drug companies in a negative light? This panel will discuss public perceptions of the drug industry, and ask: is press coverage too critical of it — or not critical enough?

El capullo de Darwin

A 150 años de haber publicado su teoría sobre el origen de las especies, el científico Charles Darwin sigue vigente.

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.

Read the full story: Journalists Who Change the World

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.

Read the full story: Theres life in the old dog yet: in defense of journalism