How the science-media gap is managed in practice – The use of news interviews in science communication trainings

Author: Rony Armon, King’s College London, United Kingdom

Though new media channels offer new venues for open and dialogical science communication (Trench, 2012, Liang, 2014), the news media remains is a major source of scientific information to the general public. As science coverage is largely attuned to traditional news values and news frames (Nisbet & Huge, 2006, Verhoeven, 2010), scientists are often trained to frame their research as engaging and clear accounts (Baram-Tsabari, & Lewenstein, 2013).

Rather than focusing on packaging science for popular consumption this workshop focuses on the interactional dynamics in which these accounts need to be embedded. While science communicating
training makes a broad use of role-play scenarios this workshop exploits naturally occurring media interactions as a way of capturing potential sources of trouble and their handling by scientific experts (Stokoe, 2014). A focused and detailed examination of such interactions enables the tracing of how participants analyse, interpret and reference each other’s stories (Georgakopoulou, 2007), contend over their respective agendas as the interaction progresses.

The workshop will be based on the presentation of news interviews engaging health risks in which scientists were found to disagree with interviewers’ assessments. Workshop participants will be asked to discuss in small groups what the interviewer’s questions were implying and how they would respond. After obtaining feedback from the group the responses that experts actually provided will be presented and evaluated for their handling of these particular interactions. The workshop is geared at preparing researchers to their interactions with journalists. However, this training could also be useful for communicating science in the conversational web media, where discussions are often steered by other agendas and claims (Laslo, Baram-Tsabari, & Lewenstein, 2011) or contestations of scientists’ credibility (Trench, 2012).