The title of a famous German bestseller applies to science journalists. Day 3 of WCSJ 2015 Seoul tried to identify a rare species by the name of _science journalist_. But before, yesterday’s sexism session blew over, delayed in time and brought some unpredicted results.
It was in the evening hours. Young Koreans, highly skillfully and determined, presented taekwondo martial arts. As if 30 Bruce Lees had conquered the stage. But a piece of news spread around like wildfire and almost stole the fighters the show. The nobel laureate who had reasoned at the beginning of the conference about the creativity of science was charged to have brought out at midday’s luncheon sexist remarks. On BBC, a witness described what she had heard. Most renowned scientific institutions distanced themselves from the scientist. Media, blogs and twitter glowed.1
New African term: Science Media Practioner
In the morning, many participants of the conference had critically looked into themselves in an effort to find their identity. The session “50 Associations. One conversation”, organized by the World Federation of Science Journalists WFSJ, co-organizer of the Seoul conference could have been titled also “Who am I? And if so—how many? To achieve one unifying conversation, the participants need to know who they and their partners are. And that apparently has become in the past couple of years more difficult than ever before.
Two striking examples. Mandi Smallhorn, president of the African Federation of Science Journalists, stated that the fight about what science journalists are supposed to be has become “vicious”. To avoid further friction, the Africans have come up with an inclusive term: Science Media Practitioner.
“Make peace, not war!”
Before, Pallava Bagla, member of the WFSJ board of directors, had described his work as television man, journalist, writer and photographer. Because of all these different hats he calls himself science communicator. Because of regional and cultural differences in the definition of what a science journalist exactly is, Pallava argued that the Federation should be “a wide umbrella”, under which everyone conveniently fits.
The discussion had been started by Werner Hadorn, Switzerland, WFSJ co-founder, author of its first constitution and president emeritus of the European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations EUSJA. He regretted that in a clash over the disputed identity, science journalists or science communicators, various member organizations had left the European body. “Make peace, not war!”, demanded Werner.
More joint projects could ignite more communication
As to more and better communication were suggested: webinars and training sessions, innovative communication platforms, regional face to face meetings, in general more inclusion and mutual projects. Valeria Roman, Argentina, had expressed that Latin America could benefit from more Federation activities in her region which automatically would improve communication.
Before, Mariko Takahashi, Japan, had said that “the engagement in joint projects is important for communication”. Her own association, JASTJ, founded in 1994, benefited a lot from the SjCOOP Asia program, which consolidated already Africa in the Arabic region.
Science Journalism must be engaging
The 3rd day’s schedule included other sessions which put the profession under the magnifying glass. Luisa Massarani, Brazil, claimed that “science journalism always deals with the society in general and sustainable development in particular”. Journalists needed to supply farmers in the developing world with “reliable sources, informing and engaging them in new techniques”. Which is to say, farmers have to become part of the process.
But even and especially a high-tech country like Korea, one of the most advanced in the world, needs scrutiny. Cheol-woo Oh, Seoul-based science reporter expressed very clearly that the media way too often just copies press releases and thus “falls into the traps of promotion”. He criticized that “we depend heavily on scientists and don’t dig deeper”. Quality science journalism in Korea still had a long way to go.
D-Day: Copenhagen or San Francisco?
A separate article will dig deeper into the local scene and describe a visit at the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science & Creativity KOVAC. But before, many people are very anxious to find out which city won the bid for the venue WCSJ 2017, Copenhagen or San Francisco. In a couple of hours’ time it will be announced before the WCSJ GA 2015.
Growing SUSPENSE …