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Science and the Media Forum
Georgia Southern University Chapter

Objective: To help researchers and the media better understand each other's work.

Participants: Area journalists and chapter members.

Description: The chapter recognized that the media plays a major role in deciding what information the public gets. As one chapter member expressed it, "The response by the public to this information feeds back to scientists through governmental and private agencies, shaping in part the direction of future research endeavors." With that in mind, the chapter decided to bring together a panel of journalists (print, radio, and TV) and researchers to discuss how journalists and researchers can better work together to get accurate, understandable information to the public. Chapter members and other interested people in the audience had an opportunity to ask questions of the panel.

Forum Topics Included:

From the scientist's viewpoint:

  • How does a scientist receive or solicit coverage in the media?
  • How should a scientist prepare for an interview (newspaper, radio, TV) -- how does it differ for these media?
  • What information should a scientist prepare for the media?>
  • How can a scientist insure accuracy of the reporting?

From the media's viewpoint:

  • What prompts the media to seek out a scientist for a story?
  • What determines the type of media that will cover a story?
  • What determines the length and time frame for a story?
  • What does the media need from the scientist?
  • How does the media insure accuracy of the story (and what if an error is reported)?

Additional considerations: Use the university or lab's press information office to identify media personnel and professors on campus with media exposure. The press office can also help the chapter develop a "tip sheet" for researchers to use when talking with the press.

While Georgia Southern primarily used a point-counterpoint format for the forum, a case study format focusing on a recent science story in the news was used as well. This format helped to illustrate the entire process from scientific inquiry to media exposure and feedback.

Cost implications and source of funds: Costs for a forum like this might include printing cost for flyers announcing the forum, rental of meeting space, food for reception after event.

Time Commitment: When determining how much time the forum will take to coordinate, factor in the time to: contact various people, agree on forum and topics, arrange for reservations, food, and publicity.

Co-sponsors/Partners: Georgia Southern Museum was a co-sponsor of the event. They provided the room and some advertising at no cost and space for the post-event reception.

Number of Chapter Members Involved: over 25

Outreach/Publicity: All forms of campus advertising -- radio, publications, posting
flyers, etc. plus request to each of the media participants to advertise in
their own media. Ideally the media would write an article on the event itself.

Checklist for Forum:

  • Determine who should be invited (print, radio, TV journalists; press relations official from institution; researchers from the chapter)
  • Decide the forum topics.
  • Book space for the event.
  • Notify press office.
  • Design and print flyers. Send invitations to chapters members.
  • Arrange for refreshments.
  • Develop "tip sheet" for researchers talking with the media based on information learned during the forum.

 

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