[ASC-media] FW: Hype and Hoops and what we do

Rob Morrison rob.morrison at flinders.edu.au
Tue Aug 1 06:38:45 CEST 2006

MessageIt has been interesting of late to see and hear various strategies
outlined for getting more science into the media. The issue of a separate
science and technology section in papers surfaces quite often.

These newspaper sections are almost invariably financed (with the possible
exception of Arts sections) by relevant advertising, so, for example, the
'Media 'and 'Aviation' sections of newspapers tend to be self-sufficient
through the media and aviation advertising that they carry.

I am told by editors that science and technology bodies simply don't
advertise, or not enough, so the prospect of having a science and technology
section is remote.

I am not sure this matters. I'd prefer to see science and technology stories
within the main body of the papers, and not in a section that can be as
easily removed and discarded unread, as is my sport section. I'd also  like
the message to be there that science is not 'separate' but an integral part
of life, as deserving as any other to be mainstream news.

What I  would far prefer to see would be the nomination of a science
reporter, even if this is part-time, and has to embrace science, technology
and environment. I held such a postion in TV news for 10 years, and it  is a
good mix.

The appointment of such a person could mean:

1. The paper  (or other media outlet) takes science seriously enough to make
such a nomination
2. The editor is at least in principle ready to accept (or consider)
science news from such a person
3. The journo so appointed has more incentive to hunt out and present
science stories to the editor and make science contacts
4. The science journo has more reason to worry about the accuracy of science
stories that he or she writes
5. Those of us with stories to pitch know we have a first port of call more
likely to listen than a random journo

Perhaps we should, as ASC, start a campaign to have a
science/technology/environment correspondent in every major media outlet,
even if only a part-time one.

Since the advent of the Aust Science Media Centre, the Adelaide Advertiser
has been running more and more science, even a regular weekend column (very
good) and has now appointed a science reporter, with further science stories
finding an outlet as a consequence. The editor sits on the AusSMC Board,
which I am sure has a bit to do  with it, but so do the senior editors of
quite a few other media organisations.

I would think the time is ripe for the ASC to write to the AusSMC requesting
a joint approach to all major media outlets to appoint a science and
technology correspondent.

In return, I think we could offer a lot, such as the very considerable
support and contacts of the Centre, plus direct distribution of media
release mailouts from the ASC and its member, inclusion in Science Week
planning etc etc..

I am sure we could develop an attractive proposal. At the very least, we
would get useful feedback.


Dr Rob Morrison
email: rob.morrison at flinders.edu.au
Phone: +618 8339 3790
Fax:   +618 8339 6272

  -----Original Message-----
  From: asc-media-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-media-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au]On Behalf Of Bruce Wright
  Sent: Tuesday, 1 August 2006 1:17 PM
  To: asc-media at lists.asc.asn.au
  Subject: [ASC-media] FW: Hype and Hoops

  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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