[ASC-list] FW: Negative connotations about journalists

Bianca Nogrady bianca at biancanogrady.com
Tue Dec 11 04:11:18 UTC 2012

I now always record my interviews, with the interviewee's consent of
course. It means the likelihood of me getting my facts or quotes wrong is
much less, and I believe it also offers the interviewee themselves some
reassurance that they are not going to be misquoted. It's a safety net for
me and them.

On a lighter note, one of the more memorable moments of my professional
life was being chastised by a Nobel Prize winner for misunderstanding a
conference presentation he had given.

I was interviewing him by telephone some time afterwards about the complex
science he spoke about, and had somehow got my scientific wires crossed.

He set me straight of course, and the story got an international run, but
the memory still makes me squirm with a mixture of pleasure and


On 11 December 2012 15:00, Rob Morrison <rob.morrison at flinders.edu.au>wrote:

> And although I can't speak for them, the regular reports that we get from
> staff in the Australian Science Media Centre - including verbatim quotes
> from the journalists themselves - show that many (hundreds) of journalists
> are devoutly grateful for the Centre's assistance in getting science
> stories right.
> That gratitude, of course, extends to the many scientists who are in the
> Centre's database as being interested in dealing with the media, ready to
> understand how it works  keen to get their science to a popular audience
> and prepared to be "on call" when a newsworthy matter turns up; invaluable
> especially to those journalists working in regional areas and other places
> where physical attendance at Media Briefings is impossible, since these are
> usually in eastern capitals.
> Those who are good at it are regularly contacted by journalists who
> welcome scientists with this approach.
> Rob
> Dr Rob Morrison
> rob.morrison at flinders.edu.au
> Phone: (08) 8339 3790
> Fax: (08)8339 6272
> ________________________________________
> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au]
> on behalf of Jenni Metcalfe [jenni at econnect.com.au]
> Sent: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 2:46 AM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> Subject: [ASC-list]  FW:  Negative connotations about journalists
> What an interesting dialogue...
> After training scientists to use the media for more than 20 years (
> http://www.econnect.com.au/workshops/talking-science-with-the-media/) and
> after working as a science communicator for more than 23 years now (yep,
> getting be an old cranky bugger), I would have to say that many scientists
> I have worked with have found working with journalists a generally very
> positive experience.
> We always have 3 working journalists participate in our workshops (and in
> the old days of 2-day workshops, we had 5) and the scientists participating
> invariably cite the journalists involvement in the workshops as the
> highlight of the workshop.
> In our discussions with the journalists, we often ask how important it is
> for them to 'get it right', and they are invariably affronted by the
> question... and stress the many ways they do try to get things right,
> especially with science and technical stories.
> Unfortunately, a myth perpetuates about journalists - that they are
> sensationalist and deliberately distort stories. The interaction that
> scientists have with journalists in our workshops goes a significant way to
> proving this myth wrong!
>  Cheers
> Jenni Metcalfe
> Director, Econnect Communication
> www.econnect.com.au
> phone: 07 3846 7111; 0408 551 866
> jenni at econnect.com.au
> skype: jenni.metcalfe
> PO Box 734 South Brisbane Q 4101
> subscribe to Econnect's free monthly e-newsletter:
> http://www.econnect.com.au/news_newsletter.htm
> -----Original Message-----
> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [mailto:
> asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Niall Byrne
> Sent: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 11:59 AM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> Subject: Re: [ASC-list] FW: Negative connotations about journalists
> I think Julian's nailed it.
> The ASC was founded by journalists AND communicators. And the ASC hosted
> the World Conference of Science Journalists. But the number of journalists
> who are members of the ASC has declined over the years, and not just
> because of the challenges in the media world.
> We, the ASC, should want to engage with and recruit journalists to our
> membership. So best if we don't treat them with contempt.
> Niall
> ________
> Niall Byrne
> Creative Director
> Science in Public
> 82 Hudsons Road, Spotswood VIC 3015
> PO Box 2076 Spotswood VIC 3015
> 03 9398 1416, 0417 131 977
> niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
> Twitter scienceinpublic
> Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com.au
> -----Original Message-----
> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [mailto:
> asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of JCribb
> Sent: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 12:19 PM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> Subject: [ASC-list] FW: Negative connotations about journalists
> Charles et al.
> Most scientists in my experience are afraid of the media because they do
> not understand it, and that is because they seldom read newspapers,
> magazines, watch commercial TV etc. We all fear the unknown - but it isn't
> necessarily rational to do so. Overcoming that fear is a fundamental role
> for science communicators as 95 per cent of society gets >100% of the
> science it picks up in a lifetime from the media. Not from scientists. Not
> from the journals.
> Not from science teachers.  From the media.
> So to pander to scientists' fear of the media is basically to give up on
> the primary task of science communication.
> Let us take the list of complaints of your non-troll linguist:
> - was he misquoted because the journalist deliberately wanted to misquote
>  - or, being a linguist, because he used language that was too highfalutin
> for the journalist to understand?
> - did he give the journalist a plain-language, written summary of his
> comments - or rely on the accuracy of the journalists
> memory/shorthand/recording? If no text was provided, then fault for the
> misquotation lies with the 'expert' for being careless, thoughtless or
> unprepared.
> - did he offer to check his quotes in the story?
> - did he bother to find out what the journalist thought the story was
> about, and so establish his own role in it - which he could then easily
> have declined if he felt there was a risk of being misrepresented.
> - was he selective about which journalists and media he spoke with in the
> first place? Being unselective about journalists is like being unselective
> about restaurants - you won't get the same service at a chicken house as
> you get at a 5-star. Again, is the poor media coverage the result of a lack
> of forethought and discrimination, and a failure to appreciate the widely
> varied nature of the media?
> - "they change it": this is a classic generalisation by those who hate the
> media. And like all generalisations it falls way short of the truth. Many
> media, especially the quality media and industry media, and especially
> individual journalists who live up to their code of ethics, take pride in
> trying to be accurate.
> - not sure who the 'fact checkers' are, as they broadly don't exist in
> Australia and are a feature of American journalism. But in any case why
> would they act dishonestly? Why be cowed by a publisher whose reputation
> rests on their work? Who are the 'writers' in this scenario? Blaming the
> Australian media for what happens in America seems a bit unreasonable.
> Sure we all have horror stories to relate, but in research we did when I
> was at CSIRO, we found that 85 per cent of scientists who had never had
> 'media experiences', dreaded them and were convinced they would go badly
> wrong, to the detriment of their careers.  When we surveyed scientists who
> had done a fair bit of media, 85 per cent told us they experience was
> satisfactory, fine, excellent, reinforcing, helpful etc.
> Of those who had had a bad experience, roughly half were inclined to write
> it off to experience, learn the lessons and develop techniques for avoiding
> the situation in future. Of the remaining 7%, we should probably never have
> let them near the media in the first place, as some people just don't get
> on with it, are gun-shy or don't understand its role in society.
> Another issue I encountered at The Australia was that, after I had done
> all I could to make my story accurate (including checking the copy with the
> scientists, which I often did) some subeditor or editor may then change it
> without referring to me. Very embarrassing. This was a problem on that
> paper at that time - my colleagues on The Age, SMH and AFR, on the other
> hand, ALWAYS received a call from their subs, if they were going to change
> or cut their copy. And this is often happening, remember, with deadline
> minutes away. The point of the tale is to say "don't blame the journalist"
> - there are usually about 10 other editors who look at and may change
> his/her copy on its way into the paper. And there are similar flaws in the
> TV process.
> But again, good media make big efforts to get it right.
> This is all basic stuff many of us teach in media courses.
> Finally, there are over 4000 media in Australia - and they vary enormously
> from one another. To say things like 'they media always get it wrong' is
> just plain senseless. There are many, many media (most of which science
> never uses at all) who will report science accurately, truthfully,
> interestingly and even re-run the approved science media releases verbatim.
> Bagging 'the media' does these people a grave disservice for the work they
> do in transferring scientific knowledge to society.
> The point is, media coverage does not have to be a disaster - and it can
> be highly valuable in terms of increasing the impact/adoption/uptake or
> commercialisation of the science. Like most things, it just has to be
> managed with a bit of insight, knowledge - and experience.
> Best regards
> Julian
> Julian Cribb FTSE
> Julian Cribb & Associates
> ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245
> www.sciencealert.com.au/jca.html
> Skype: julian.cribb
> If you EAT, you should follow: http://twitter.com/#!/ComingFamine
> -----Original Message-----
> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
> [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Charles Willock
> Sent: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 11:17 AM
> To: Susan Kirk
> Cc: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au; Charles Willock
> Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Negative connotations about journalists
> Hi Susan,
>   Its been an interesting week ... and its only Tuesday.
>   Yesterday, I received a message via a heavyweight linguistics
>   list with a blistering negative appraisal by someone who is
>   (he asserts) regularly poorly treated by journalists,
>   producers and the media.
>   This wasn't the opinion of a ratbag, stirrer, troll on a half
>   baked list, ... this was from one of an elite group of linguists
>   at one of the top US universities.
>   His appraisal went considerably further than the words you are
>   concerned about.
>   While I'm not at liberty to reproduce his mail here, a quick
>   summary might be useful.
>      o.  he was misquoted
>      o.  journalists gathered items to support their own agenda
>          dropping key items which didn't
>      o.  if the contribution didn't fit their story they
>          change it [!!!] to do so
>      o.  fact checkers acting dishonestly, cowed by publishers
>          supported by writers
>   There were negative remarks by others on that list too.
>   To my mind, the sentence you quoted does a good job of
>   expressing how many scientists think about journalists.
>   Yes, those scientists might well benefit from a better
>   understanding of the constraints of the media ...
>   ... but adopting a strategy of avoiding, or misrepresenting
>   those perspectives would seem to be doing exactly what those
>   individuals are concerned/angry about.  Not PR spin, but
>   Agenda spin.
>   There is a further point.  In advertising, identifying the key
>   issue for the reader is an effective (according to testing)
>   means of "selection" [ie getting people to read the bulk of your
>   advert].  And, that works despite the copywriter's or readers
>   feelings of queeziness about an issue.  Eg an advert with a
>   headline "Do you have a smelly dog" is likely to attract many
>   more readers whose dog smells, than a headline like "Are you
>   still friends with your dog" or "Do you love your dog today".
>   One possibility is to consider the statement as useful
>   feedback and with that as a guide address the underlying
>   issues.
>   That way, in the long term, your dog will smell good, your
>   communications will be sweet, and everyone will have a joyous
>   time of the year.
>   Hmmm ...
> :-)
> Charlesw
> On Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 08:30:06AM +1000, Susan Kirk wrote:
> > "Do you want to be able to deal with the media but too worried about
> > them twisting your words or saying something negative about your
> research?"
> >
> > Imagine my surprise to see this headline on the ASC website?
> >
> > I'm sure as communication specialists we should be able to find a way
> > to rephrase this sentence so that it's more positive of the people
> > that support its foundations.
> >
> > S
> >
> > Susan Kirk   B.comm  freelance Journalist
> > Member and Queensland Web Editor -  Australian Science Communicators
> > (ASC) Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) & Horticultural
> > Media Association (Qld)  (HMAQ)
> > tel: +61 7 5478 6761 | mobile: 0423342867 | email:
> > susan at susankirk.com.au www.susankirk.com.au |  Skype: susanakirk |
> > Tweet: susanakirk
> >
> > ³If you don¹t ask the right questions you won¹t get the right
> > answers.²
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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> > mid=115
>       "Creativity and innovation are measured not by what is done,
>            but by what could have been done ... but wasn't"
> Disclaimer: http://www.eng.unsw.edu.au/emaildis.htm
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Charles Willock                                 charlesw at cse.unsw.edu.au
> c/- School of Computer Science and Engineering
> University of New South Wales,
> New South Wales  Australia  2052    http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~charlesw
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