Science journalists capacity building

Science journalists working in developing countries especially Pakistan face a number of challenges particularly in getting local stories, dealing with reluctant or unskilled scientists, dealing with press officers who do not understand the science. They often have to deal with multiple languages, face the difficult task of translating science material from English, and consider how scientific knowledge connects with indigenous knowledge. And if they get to report on science at all, it is usually driven by health issues or the latest environmental crisis. There has been some media coverage in recent years on topics such as the growing digital divide, the role of information technology in development, and the perceived opportunities and risks of biotechnology. But unfortunately there has not been coverage to the same degree of research programmes and policies concerning critical public health issues such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, impact of climatic change and loss of biodiversity. A genuine obstacle in addressing these issues is the lack of training of media persons in how to report on them. There is a need to train and support science journalists in the country. Though an attempt was made in 2007 when a generic course outline was developed and then sought feedback from science journalists and experts at a UNESCO workshop held in association with the World Conference of Science Journalists, yet as far as science journalism in Pakistan is concerned, the progress is still at the starting point. On the academic side, there must be science qualification for science journalists, but on the other side, all the stakeholders need to sit together and develop an effective mechanism to ensure capacity building of media persons in terms of science journalism. Holding of training workshops and seminars on regional level could contribute a lot in popularization of science journalism even in local media organizations as well as media persons. Educational institutions particularly faculty members in universities as well as scientists in institutions can contribute a lot in media persons capacity building and general awareness on science issues. It has always been noted with concern the gap between scientist community and media persons. This factor has left a negative impact on the overall performance of media in completely understanding the science as a subject and always remained unable to properly convey the spirit of the science as a sector. Extending support to regional networks of science journalists could help to develop their professional skills but this is possible if serious efforts on the part of stakeholders are made.

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