Friday, 17 June 2011

Previewing Masterclass 32: Science, health and environment reporting

There are good reason for grouping science, health and environment together in our survey of journalistic specialismsIn terms of their subject matter, there are overlaps.

That’s reflected in the fact that many news titles and broadcasters give their correspondents responsibility for two or more of the science, health and environment categories.
The BBC, for example, has a science and environment correspondent, in David Shukman. Reuters has a health and science correspondent in Kate Kelland.
These beats have something else in common – they are often really badly reported.

Why is science reporting often poor?

Partly because the issues concerning science, health and environment beats are often very complex and impossible to boil down to a headline without risking getting things very wrong indeed.
Journalists and scientists work in diametrically opposed ways.
Journalists need it fast, scientists need to consider the import of a finding or event before they declare on it.

Can we overcome this?

Can science etc be reported well?
We’ll look in detail at how become a really good science reporter, taking advice from a range of experts – both scientists and journalists.
Environment, health and science also have this in common: they attract, and are appropriate beats for, those with science degrees. So we'll look at how scientists can become science journalists.
Our trio of topics make for great specialisms in B2B publications.
B2Bs are useful seed beds for specialist science, health and environment journalists, who often transfer to  serious newspapers and to broadcasters, both of which generally want specialists in these areas.

How to get into science journalism

We’ll take advice from the Association of British Science Writers on the various avenues into these beats – for those with a science background, and those without one.
I’ve known of pharmacists, scientists and others who have drifted into journalism and discovered that they are as good, if not better, at covering developments in their specialism as they were in practising it.
Because of the overlaps mentioned, much of what we say for science applies equally to health and environment.
So I’ve grouped a lot of information with general relevance under the heading of science journalism, and you’ll see that reflected in the modules, Just follow the bottom link on this screen to get started  If you aren’t a subscriber to MMJ, you can still  find out about the course here, but only access it until June 24 2011. You can buy the textbook, and hence become a subscriber, here.
So if health or environment are your thing, it’s worth reading through science as well.
We’ll profile the star science, health and environment journalists, so you can learn from the best, and we’ll focus on the university courses relevant to these journalistic beats.

Next: Science Journalism, how to get into it

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