Media Awareness Seminar for Scientists (Journalism 101)
Science and engineering have never been more pervasive in everyday life, yet many Canadians feel unconnected to it. Studies show that most people still get their initial news about science from the traditional mass media yet specialized science journalists have become a rarity there.
Stories about science and engineering are now largely being done by General Assignment reporters who usually lack the expertise to present these subjects in an engaging and accurate way. The Science Media Centre is dedicated to increase public engagement with science and engineering issues through media coverage that is more informed, more accurate and more incisive. (For our complete mission statement, click here.)
To facilitate the dialogue between media and science subject matter expertise, the Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC) offers a half-day interactive workshop as a scientists’ beginner’s introduction to the media. The seminar provides scientists and engineers with the knowledge and skills to really understand how the mass media think and operate. This insight helps scientists and engineers get their key points across in a way that journalists can grasp.
Communication tools: Scientists, researchers and engineers are provided with a tour of the often-confusing world of journalism, its norms, cultures and values. The seminar includes an elegant but simple approach to categorizing in advance the likely demands of different classes of journalists and practical strategies to deal with them.
Pertinent Subject Matter: Participants hear from practising journalists, press officers and other scientists or engineers about:
- the deadlines and other constraints under which journalists work
- how journalists define newsworthiness and how they find stories
- top tips for dealing with the media
- the role of the press officer at universities and other institutions
- the importance of engaging with the media
Experienced and knowledgeable presenters: Workshop presenters have included such people as Jim Handman, Executive Producer of CBC radio’s Quirks & Quarks; Penny Park, current Executive Director of the SMCC and past supervising producer at Discovery TV; Peter Calamai, freelance journalist and former national science reporter for the Toronto Star.
Traditional skills-based media training: The workshop does not include one-on-one coaching to prepare scientists or engineers in depth for a confrontation interview with an open-mike radio host.
The workshop is aimed at scientists, researchers and engineers with little or no experience with the media. It has also proven beneficial for those who have had a bad experience with the media. Press officers from universities and institutions are also encouraged to attend.
On a five-point scale, participants at one university said (4.1) they would recommend the workshop to others and that it provided insight (4.0) into how journalists report about science in Canada. They also agreed (4.4) that engaging the public through the media is important and that researchers have a direct role in doing this (3.9).
For a flat fee of $5000, the Science Media Centre will be responsible for:
- engaging all workshop presenters, typically collaborating with the host institution on selecting a press officer to take part
- co-ordinating travel arrangements in collaboration with host organization, while engaging journalist participants locally when possible
- providing refreshments during the seminar and for an informal “mixer” afterwards
- providing master copies of all printed materials to be distributed
- Paying modest honorarium to the journalist presenters
Host institutions will be responsible for:
- providing a venue, in consultation with the Science Media Centre
- providing audio-visual equipment and technicians to ensure operation
- reimbursing travel expenses for the workshop presenters
For further information contact:
Penny Park, Executive Director, Science Media Centre of Canada