[ASC-media] FW: Hype and Hoops

Bruce Wright bruce.wright at greenhouse.crc.org.au
Tue Aug 1 05:47:08 CEST 2006

Dear ASCers
The managers and editors and reporters and subeditors in the mass media are
not much interested in what coverage sicence or anything else 'deserves';
they are interested only in what their readers and potential readers in
their chosen market segment (or listeners or viewers, depending on the
media) want.
Editors are expected to produce newspapers that sell. Reporters are expected
to write stories that readers will buy newspapers for. Any view of what
'deserves' coverage, which must be subjective anyway, matters not a jot in
the decision-making of most newsrooms. While many editors will politely
listen (particularly those in smaller communities), the mass of editors of
our daily media are not going to "come to the table to talk about giving
science the coverage it deserves."
So if we want science to get a better run in the daily media, we will have
to present it in ways that convince editors that their
readers/listeners/viewers want it. And, yes, we'll have to continue to
resist boasting of non-existent breakthroughs - look for the hard news angle
but keep it factual. Make it relevant to their readers/listeners/viewers. 
Life's tough. On both sides of the fence. Sorry.
Bruce Wright
PS: And, as a former newspaper editor, can I say that the testing of
assertions of editors about what works and doesn't occurs every day - it's
the circulation report. Editors whose assertions are not confirmed by the
circulation report become very uncomfortable very quickly.
-----Original Message-----
From: asc-media-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-media-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of
jtyler at scibizmedia.com.au
Sent: Tuesday, 1 August 2006 9:32 AM
To: asc-media at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: [ASC-media] Hype and Hoops

 Rob Morrison's latest piece in Australasian Science (Aug 2006) 'Excessive
Hype Debases Science Communication' got me thinking. 

I agree with Rob that 'breakthrough' reporting does little for the science
report, but I also remember that when we were all in journalism school (and
the older of us were copy people in the newsroom), the only way to get
science into the news was to 'outcompete the daily sensation'. We were
taught the home in on a single, 'hard news' angle if it was to find column

For decades this has guided how science gets bundled into the media. With
the wholescale decline in dedicated science reporters in the daily news
media, this has become even moreso.

On the other hand, there has been a spectacular rise in the number of
science communicators at research centres. Having fought for maintianing
science in the daily media for more than a decade, ASC has been fighting the
good fight in getting science communication as a profession recognised.
Somewehere in this timeline, grant providers have determined that all
research should carry promotions as part of the grant conditions.

Tied up with this, as Rob correctly says, research organisations need to
self promote more, both to satisfy granting bodies and to attract private
funds and students. Hence the rise in science communicators being hired by
research organisations - one of our profession's largest growth areas.

And now science communicators, as opposed to the daily media, are being
labeled as 'spinners'.

Having jumped through the hoops to get into the media, 'spin' has now become
the latest reason why we still have a relatively insignificant amount of
science news in our daily media. Seems we've changed hoops.

I agree with Rob - assertions by the media editors about breakthrough
reporting and its impact on science in the media need testing. How
organisations handle the media needs clarification.

Guidelines and style manuals are desperately needed, and ASC initiative in
these areas is to be applauded. In some part, these are our latest hoops -
and I would say these are as much driven by the lack of response by media
editors as much as by our own sense of needing a profession-wide standard.

Iin the context of a decline in science rounds in the daily media, there is
no sensible rationale for why science doesn't get into the media more. 

It's time that the media came to the table to talk about giving science the
coverage it deserves in the daily media.

Jess Tyler
SciBiz Media

publicity . media . science conferences . training 

M: 0408 298 292
E: jtyler at scibizmedia.com.au

PO Box 71
Blackmans Bay TAS 7052

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