Science-Media Relations

I’m sceptical of scientific news. Not because of the message, but because I pick articles apart – Why more scaremongering? Where is the detail? Why have they included a ridiculous picture, tenuously linked to the subject? Yet, my curiosity wins and I read on – scientific journalism has succeeded.

How can scientific media succeed for everyone? Karen Bidewell told us today that the average reading age in the North East is eight, yes eight. I now realise articles must be devoid of complex methods and jargon, and simply provide scientific messages.

Proactive media is important. A University press release following a paper being published provides immediate impact, hopefully grabbing journalists’ attention. Inside, there’s a take home message with proximity, a quirky title, and an emotive image to sell the story: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/dog-s-life

For the academic, however, working with the media seems a double-edged sword. For one, you can promote yourself and your research, whilst aiding university recruitment. Yet, it’s risky business: Are you showing off? Will your “ground-breaking” discovery be questioned? Will the wrong message be perceived? I suppose any press is good press, right?

I’m still cautious about the media’s relationship with science. This quote from the handbook of public communication of science and technology speaks volumes: “media science stories overwhelmingly represent scientists as white knights who ride to the rescue.”  The media uses this stereotype to generate massive public attention. Thankfully, unless the story is excellent, the public won’t hear about it – unless of course it’s awful!

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