Friday, 29 October 2010

Science Journos shouldn't fear for the future

Recently proposed cuts to science funding fuelled by the recession are causing for concern for many young scientists looking for work, but should science writers also be worried?

Dr John Cokley, a Visiting Research Fellow at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, believes not. He spoke to us today about his vision for the future and gave some brief advice on how to avoid the various pitfalls a successful science writer must negotiate.

As science moves from an industry focussed on innovation to one centred on commercialisation, John feels that the role of the science journalist will become more important in helping the public to not only keep up with scientific progress but also to understand and critically evaluate it.

The role of the scientific journalist, according to John, is to understand new science, interpret and communicate it effectively to a public who may not have the requisite knowledge to appreciate the potential implications.

This is more complicated than it sounds. The science journalist will likely have an intrinsic interest in all things relating to science and so any new and exciting developments will capture their attention, but it is unlikely that this will be true for the majority of their readers.

John reiterates that the best way to get people interested is to know your audience inside out. Researching the demographic statistics for your readership will give you invaluable information on what issues they are likely to take in interest in and more importantly, how to frame your report in a way that will make them take an interest.

The most important question to ask when writing any report, scientific or otherwise, is ‘Why would my reader care?’ If you can answer this and write with it in mind, you will produce a piece that your readers will be far more likely to read and engage with.
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