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Geography and the Media: Strengthening the Relationship

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Invited symposium paper discusses how geographers can be more successful in having their work receive the attention of the media, and how the media can better inform geographers about interacting with …

Invited symposium paper discusses how geographers can be more successful in having their work receive the attention of the media, and how the media can better inform geographers about interacting with the media, and how the media can better use geographic materials in media stories.

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  • 1. Geography and the Media: Strengthening the Relationship Professor Barry Wellar, PhD Department of Geography University of Ottawa Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5 wellarb@uottawa.ca Abstract* The use and portrayal of geography by the media is an integral part of any discussion of the subject’s image in the public domain. It is seen most clearly at times of natural disaster like the Montreal icestorm, the firestorm in Kelowna and Kamloops, the Peterborough flood, the Vancouver mudslide, and most recently the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Not to be overlooked, however, are the portraits of places that the media provide viewers and listeners, either as background to news or as feature programs. Do the media know where to turn in the geographic community for sources of reliable and current knowledge that go beyond the descriptive? How does the geographic community see its work being used and its image projected in the public domain? Has it done as much as it might to project its work in the public domain? What would the media expect from an organization that was seeking to do so? How can the media and geographic community inform each other? How could geographers be helped to deal more effectively with events like the Montreal ice storm that are seared in the public mind as experiences and yet beg wider understanding? This contribution to the Symposium on Projecting Geography in the Public Domain in Canada begins by presenting a series of graphics and comments as context for responses to the questions posed by Symposium organizers. The presentation then demonstrates that while the geographic community has experienced a number of successes in regard to media coverage, much remains to be done to build and maintain a geography-media relationship whereby geography is accorded its full measure of regard in all the media – print, radio, television, Internet – which project our work in the public domain in Canada. The first two paragraphs of the abstract were prepared by the Symposium organizers, and * served as the terms of reference for the presentation. 2
  • 2. I. A Context for the Questions on Geography and the Media: Strengthening the Relationship Each of the questions prepared by Symposium organizers is open-ended and wide-ranging in scope, and has the potential to generate a variety of perspectives and opinions on how to (better) project geography in the media slice of the public domain in Canada. Further, it was quickly realized when reviewing the assignment that there is an element of ‘it depends’ associated with each question. By way of illustration, suggesting how to raise the profile of geography in the media depends on knowing what has already been done. Identifying ways to bridge gaps and create new linkages depends on how well both parties understand what one has to offer and the other needs. Then, assessing how well geography has performed in projecting its work in the public domain first depends on the criteria used to grade the effort, and then upon the rigor applied in judging the performance. Moreover, examining the relationship between geography and the media requires that we be open to all “ways of knowing”. That is, while there is an emphasis on the scientific way of knowing in the field of geography, emphasis in the media may more often be placed on intuition or ‘gut feeling’, revelation, common sense-everyday experience, or authority. As a result, it is necessary that the presentation respect and accommodate all the different ways of knowing and, by extension, the different ways of thinking and doing in geography and in the media. For reasons related to the nature of the questions, the ‘it depends’ feature of the questions, and the different ways of knowing that apply to projecting geography into and through the media, it would be imprudent to rush into the response mode. That is, in order to ground the responses so that they are not seen to be “floating in mid-air”, a context is needed in which to consider both the questions raised and the responses. Indeed, to be truly useful, the context needs to begin at the beginning and accommodate the most fundamental question: “Why would or should the media have an interest in geography or the geographical community?” A selection of slides has been prepared to respond to this why question. Drawing on the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words, the graphics serve a two-fold purpose. First, they are an efficient means of overviewing the presentation. Second, they can be readily amended to deal with suggestions from symposium organizers, from Peter Desbarats (the session’s designated respondent), as well as from session attendees. In the interests of facilitating the presentation and discussion, a brief, overview-type comment is made about each slide. It is emphasized that these are indicative comments about the slides. Readers interested in reading more detailed accounts of the slide materials are invited to contact the author for references. 3
  • 3. Figure 1. Geography, the Media, and the Pursuit and Application of Data, Information and Knowledge (1): Components. Figure 1 identifies the building blocks of the presentation at a general level. Figure 2. Geography, the Media, and the Pursuit and Application of Data, Information and Knowledge (2): Connections. The addition of arrows to connect the building blocks represents the design/proposal challenge to this assignment. This graphic also represents the operational/implementation challenges facing the geographic community. In brief, making those connections is a necessary condition if we are to succeed in our effort to significantly strengthen the geography-media relationship. Figure 3. Geography, the Media, and the Pursuit and Application of Data, Information and Knowledge (3): The Typology of Stories. This graphic illustrates that at even a general level, there are many varieties of stories to be told by the media. Figure 3 also effectively demonstrates however, following the principles of sets, that among all those potential types of stories, those making the connection among three and four of the components are at the core of a strengthened geography-media relationship. Figure 4. The Data-Information-Knowledge Transform Process: Simple Model. This flow diagram is included to make explicit that in this presentation data, information and knowledge are not interchangeable parts, that knowledge does not just magically ‘emerge from the ether’, and that (non-trivial) knowledge is a derived product resulting from methodologically-designed inquiry. Table 1. Terms and Concepts That Underlie the Work of the Geographic Community, and Indicate the Potential for Projecting Geography in the Public Domain. There is a vocabulary in and of geography that needs to be made known to members of the media community. The terms and concepts selected for inclusion in list compiled for Table I are among those which are in both the curiosity-driven and client-driven domains of the geography community, and are used in various fields of geography. Many of the entries are also part of society’s everyday language, and inspection reveals that many of these terms and concepts are included explicitly or implicitly in many media stories. The problem, however, is that the geography behind the terms and concepts too often seems to ‘get lost in translation’, is overlooked, or is ignored. Table 2. Types of Literature Pertinent to a Discussion of Geography, the Media, and Projecting Geography in the Public Domain. One of the primary ways of projecting geography in the public domain is through “the literature”. It is therefore imperative that we appreciate the many different kinds of literature that there are in the public domain. Table 2 provides a partial list of literatures in which to project the curiosity-driven, client-driven, and other work of the geographic community. Table 3. An Elaboration of the “The Media” by Unbundling the Phrase “Popular Literature”. Members of the geographic community may have different perceptions of “the media”. Table 3 indicates how the media are perceived and characterized for the purposes of this presentation. 4
  • 4. These introductory remarks should be sufficient to establish a rationale for including the figures and tables in the context part of the presentation. More importantly, however, it is hoped that the remarks and graphics combine to serve two vital functions. First, the graphics and remarks will perform as hoped if they succeed in disabusing readers of the notion that dealing with any of the questions involves an easy fix, or that any of the questions can be successfully addressed without regard for the other questions. This regard for respecting the difficulty of the task is based on numerous reports acknowledging that the failure of enterprises similar to Projecting Geography in the Public domain in Canada was frequently due to greatly underestimating the difficulty of non-trivial tasks. Second, during the initial phase of the assignment I had discussions with members of both the geographic and media communities. The topic of discussion was to learn whether this kind of project had a known precedent and, if not, what advice they could offer. The overall response was no known precedent, and no advice other than to prepare a modular presentation that could be modified to accommodate new people and ideas as the geography-media relationship “gelled”. The remarks and graphics that follow will perform as hoped in this regard if they induce readers to suggest better ways of introducing the assignment, and of promoting a joint geographic community-media community effort to strengthen the geography-media relationship. As a final context comment, the topic Geography and the Media is related to all the other Symposium session topics. As a result, suggestions are invited on how to modify the context of this presentation in order to reflect the interests represented in the other sessions. 5
  • 5. Figure 1. Geography, the Media, and the Pursuit and Application of Data, Information and Knowledge (1): Components GEOGRAPHY Human Physical Methodology Technology CLIENT-DRIVEN CURIOSITY-DRIVEN DATA, INFORMATION, DATA, INFORMATION, KNOWLEDGE ACTIVITIES KNOWLEDGE ACTIVITIES Impact Assessment Prescription Description Forecasting Explanation Evaluation Prediction Design MEDIA Print Radio Television Internet 6
  • 6. Figure 2. Geography, the Media, and the Pursuit and Application of Data, Information and Knowledge (2): Connections GEOGRAPHY Human Physical Methodology Technology CLIENT-DRIVEN CURIOSITY-DRIVEN DATA, INFORMATION, DATA, INFORMATION, KNOWLEDGE ACTIVITIES KNOWLEDGE ACTIVITIES Impact Assessment Prescription Description Forecasting Explanation Evaluation Prediction Design MEDIA Print Radio Television Internet 7
  • 7. Figure 3. Geography, the Media, and the Pursuit and Application of Data, Information and Knowledge (3): The Typology of Stories GEOGRAPHY Human Physical Methodology Technology CLIENT-DRIVEN DATA, INFORMATION, CURIOSITY-DRIVEN KNOWLEDGE ACTIVITIES DATA, INFORMATION, KNOWLEDGE ACTIVITIES Impact Assessment Prescription Description Forecasting Explanation Evaluation Prediction Design MEDIA Print Radio Television Internet 8
  • 8. Figure 4. The Data-Information-Knowledge Transform Process: Simple Model States Existing Preferred Data Information Knowledge Reality Reality Transforms This schematic and variations of this schematic have been displayed in numerous GIS-type publications and conference slides for more than 30 years, and the data/information/knowledge (DIK) transforms have been in the literature for many centuries. As a result, that aspect of Figure 4 is not discussed here. One feature of the schematic that requires comment, however, is the meaning attached in this presentation to the “States” referred to as “Existing Reality” and “Preferred Reality”. Recalling the contents of Figures 1, 2, and 3, and looking ahead to the figures, tables and discussion to follow, the ‘realities of interest’ to this presentation include: state of science; state of media reportage; state of the geographic community; state of communications between the geographic and media communities; state of the world; state of urban development; state of energy supply and consumption; state of accessibility for the disabled; state of water resources in Western Canada; state of the offshore fisheries; state of the ozone layer; state of forests and farming by type and area; and, state of transportation. In other words, anything that falls within the rubrics of curiosity-driven research, client-driven research, geography, or the media could likely be characterized as a “state” subject to the DIK transform process. Many of the terms and concepts listed in Table 1 are used to describe the kinds of realities noted above, to explain various kinds of cause-effect, producer-product, or correlational relationships, to predict the outcomes of natural and human-induced events and processes. Further, they are used in design, forecasting, prescriptive, evaluation, and impact assessment studies that seek to achieve convergence between what is and what should be on matters of interest to individuals, groups, and public and private institutions. Figure 4, although a simple model, has the capacity to put all the states of interest in perspective, and contributes to organizing our thoughts on the various aspects of the geography-media relationship. 9
  • 9. Table 1. Terms and Concepts That Underlie the Work of the Geographic Community, and Indicate the Potential for Projecting Geography in the Public Domain through Media Stories Accessible (ity) Dimension Land Polygon(al) Adjacent(cy) Disperse(ion) Landscape Proximity Agglomerate (ion) Distance Latitude Quadrangle Aggregate(ion) Distribution Line Quadrant Along(side) Edge Link Region Amalgamate(ion) Effect Locality Relation(ship) Anywhere Elevation Location Right-of-way Arc Encroach(ment) Local(ization) Route Area(polygon) Environment Longitude Rural Around Everywhere Map Scale Association Extrusion Margin(al) Segregate(ion) Block Far Meridian Shape Border Field Migration Shed Boundary Fjord Morphology Site Buffer Flow(s) Movement Situation Cause(al/ity) Form Nation(al/ization) Slope Center Fringe Near(ness) Somewhere Centrality Function(al/ity) Neighbor Space Circle Geocode Network Spatial Close(ness) Geodetic NIMBY Sphere Clump Geofactor Node Sprawl Cluster Geographic Nowhere Spread Coastal Geomatic Object Strip Commutershed Geometric Orientation Structure Compact(ness) Geopolitical Origin Surface Concentrate(ion) Georeference Overlay System Concentric Geospatial Parcel Territory Congestion GIS/GISc Partition Topographic Connect (ion/ivity) Global(ization) Path Topology(ic) Contiguous Grid Pattern Urban(ex/sub) Continent(al) Gridlock Pedshed Vector Conurbation Habitat Perimeter Walkshed Coordinates Hinterland Periphery Ward Core Interaction Place Warren Correlation Intersection Plain Watershed Countryside Intrusion Plane Where Density Island Point YIMBY Diffusion Isolate(ion) Pole(ar/ity) Zone 10
  • 10. Table 2. Types of Literature Pertinent to a Discussion of Geography, the Media, and Projecting Geography in the Public Domain 1. Learned Literature (including journals, proceedings, books, monographs, position papers, glossaries, videos, dissertations, theses) is published under the auspices of scholarly societies and their member disciplines. These works add to knowledge, add to ways and means of continuing to add to knowledge, employ methodologically rigorous procedures of inquiry which can be externally examined and validated, and are subject to a peer review process. 2. Popular Literature (newspapers, magazines, television, radio, Internet, and any other means of communicating with a population.) 3. Corporate/Institutional-Public Literature (constitutions, accords, authorizations, manifestos, addresses, manuals, agreements, maps, files, tapes, images, … produced by governments and government agencies at all levels, crown corporations…) 4. Corporate/Institutional-Private Literature (papers, certificates, deeds, permits, prospectuses, IPOs, letters of intent, maps, files, tapes, images, … produced by businesses and associated enterprises.) 5. Legal Literature (legislation, charters, statutes, Acts, …produced for and by court and court-associated bodies.) 6. Regulatory Literature (by-laws, rules of conduct, procedural manuals, etc., produced by and for various public and private agencies/enterprises.) 7. Professional Group Literature (any of the above or other kinds of literature distributed by organizations whose members are licensed and certified as RPP, CPUQ, MCIP, AICP, GISP, CPA, CMA, MD, DDS, OLS, RN, P.Eng., LLB, OAA, and the list goes on.) 8. Public Interest Group Literature (any of the above or other kinds of literature distributed by organizations whose members are not privileged beneficiaries of group activities, including the Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods, Center for Sustainable Transportation, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, community associations, Greenpeace, Council of Canadians, Capital Bike and Walk Society, etc.) 9. Vested/Special Interest Group Literature (any of the above or other kinds of literature, including advertising and promotional materials, distributed by organizations whose members are privileged beneficiaries of group activities, frequently in monetary terms. Illustrative organizations in this category of literature production are the Canadian Automobile Association, Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canadian Association of Public Administrators, Mining Association of Canada, Urban Development Institute, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, ratepayer groups, business improvement associations, political parties, unions, OPEC, NHLPA, The Ottawa Partnership, The Toronto Board of Trade, the Forest Products Association of Canada….) 11
  • 11. Table 3. An Elaboration of “The Media” by Unbundling the Phrase “Popular Literature” 1. Newspapers a. Daily (national, regional, local) b. Weekly (community, commercial) c. Bi-weekly (community, commercial) d. Monthly (community, commercial) 2. Magazines a. National b. Regional c. Local 3. Newsletters a. Public interest group (national, regional, local) b. Vested interest group (national, regional, local) 4. Radio a. National (public, private) b. Regional ( public, private) c. Local (public, private) 5. Television a. National (public, private) b. Regional (public, private) c. Local (public, private) 6. Internet a. Websites (commercial, educational, government, networking organizations, ….) b. Mail lists (all the groups covered by the entries in Table 3, any individuals wishing to form or join a group to share opinions, materials, ….) 12
  • 12. II. Responses to the Questions In preparing the responses to the questions posed by the symposium organizers, I did not have the benefit of first reviewing the materials prepared by the other presenters. It is anticipated that if schedules do not allow for exchanging materials and making modifications prior to meeting in London, then it may be possible to make connections among the sessions at the symposium, Q1. Do the media know where to turn in the geographic community for sources of reliable and current knowledge that go beyond the descriptive? In many cases they do, particularly if the story has a legacy of media-geography engagement, if the media person handling the story is well connected to the geographic community, or if universities and colleges have media relations units that ‘promote’ the interests and work of the geographic community. Increasingly, however, it seems that members of the media, and especially the more tech- oriented members, are making contact with geography and geographers through web pages and electronic mail. In brief, searching (or scanning) web pages is perceived as an efficient (time and money) means of learning about who is doing what in any field of inquiry, and especially if keyword-based searches/scans are possible. Searches/scans by topical fields, regions or localities, as well as by gender, culture, socio-economic attribute, etc., are very popular, and can create the impression that the searches/scans are effectively delving into “… sources of reliable and current knowledge that go beyond the descriptive”. Unfortunately, if either the searches/scans or the materials located are limited to the basic 4W questions, that is, who, what, where and when, and do not get into why and how questions and answers, then the response to Q1 is “No”. That is, rather than producing stories that reflect the knowledge of the geographic community, and our ability to explain relationships and make predictions in a methodologically robust manner, the more likely product is ‘tabloid journalism’ or shallow pieces of work that do not substantively project geography in the public domain in Canada. The advisory in this regard, therefore, is that “dumping” geographic materials onto the web will not turn the response to Q1 into a “Yes”. As experience to date has demonstrated, the garbage in- garbage out problem enunciated some 35 years ago has not been solved by wide-but-shallow cataloguing exercises via the Internet, regardless of how fast the materials can be assembled. Instead, the “trivia in-trivia out” malaise has depreciated the performance of the “information highway”. Fortunately, there are many web-using, non-geographers who are very “plugged in” to the geography community. Moreover, in my experience, they share an important research trait. That is, these members of the media, as well as lawyers, engineers, politicians, economists, etc., base their searches/scans on combinations of geographic terms, such as those listed in Figures 1 and 3, 13
  • 13. and Table 1. The questions of why and how are incorporated in the searches, and the subsequent stories and reports reflect a serious appreciation of the importance of geography to the issue of interest. As for the utility of electronic mail, and most notably mailing lists, many journalists, columnists, editorialists and media researchers are serious users of this Internet service. A dozen keystrokes are often sufficient to post data/information/knowledge requests, and to gain access to a variety of sources (people and various catalogues) on who is conducting research on what topic, and who to contact in the search for reliable and current knowledge that goes beyond the descriptive. Those positive observations notwithstanding, however, much remains to be done to better inform the media about which members of the geographic community are engaged in which kind(s) of knowledge-producing activities, and where this knowledge is located in the “literature”. The work-to-be-done topic is re-visited in the responses to Questions 3 and 5. As discussed, there can be great differences between what geographers have to offer by way of journal articles, conference papers, research reports, lab experiments, etc., and what the media wants for a print, radio, television or Internet story. Q2. How does the geographic community see its work being used and its image projected in the public domain? It needs to be emphasized and made explicit that this presentation is limited to the media ‘slice’ of the public domain. As a result, the response to Q2 deals only with how our work is used by the media, and how our image is projected by the media.† Further, a comprehensive, detailed response to Q2 would have regard for all the Figures presented in Part I (Context), and the materials contained in the response to Q1. However, a discussion of that nature is beyond the scope of this assignment. What is appropriate at this time, for both resource and operational reasons, is to begin the process of assembling a body of evidence that documents how our work has actually been used by the media. Then, to the extent that the image which is projected by the media can be deciphered, interpretive comments could be included. Once that process has been initiated, and additional materials accumulated, then the geography community will have an increasingly larger fact base at its disposal. And, the more that fact base is broadened and deepened, the better the geography community will be positioned for its discourse on how the issues and possibilities raised in the Geography and the Media session † A major challenge for symposium organizers will be to make the connections among the issues and possibilities raised in the Geography and the Media session and those raised in all the other sessions: Geography, Universities, and Colleges; Geography, Politics, and Government; Geography, Business, and Industry; Geography and Schools. A central objective of this presentation, therefore, is to include methodological foundations that could assist in identifying measures to strengthen the ways in which geography is projected in the media in particular and across Canada in general. 14
  • 14. affect the measures that might be taken to strengthen the ways in which geography is projected in the public domain in Canada. Indeed, if we are persuasive in our arguments about the importance of this topic, then the geography community could become very proactive by undertaking a variety of structured and detailed inquiries. These could include major term paper or thesis projects at the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as works by professors, teachers, media professionals, and other friends of geography seeking to help strengthen the geography-media relationship. Frameworks for documenting the media’s use of the geographic community and its work are provided by Table 4 and Table 5, respectively. Table 4 presents a selection of media stories that were written by geographers; cite the geographers for their remarks, materials, etc.; or which name geographers as contributors to the story. I hasten to add that the selected articles were assembled because of convenience of access, and that the table may be expanded before the symposium if time permits. Towards that end, viewers of the posted draft of Geography and the Media: Strengthening the Relationship, and recipients of the message sent to Caglist, are invited to contribute to Table 4 by sending their contributions as soon as possible to wellarb@uottawa.ca. In recognition of the possibility that not all readers subscribe to Caglist, the messages sent to Caglist members are repeated here. This way all readers are apprised of the requests made to obtain media stories involving geographers and geography. The first communication was posted April 28, 2005. It included the session outline (paragraphs one and two in the Abstract) and the remainder was as follows: Media Materials Invited: I am assembling materials for my presentation on Geography and the Media, which is one of the topics of the symposium, Projecting Geography in the Public Domain in Canada, Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, University of Western Ontario, London, June 2-3, 2005. Assistance is requested. The organizers of the symposium have set the bar very high in terms of the anticipated content of presentations. Moreover, there is a distinct 'call for action' associated with each of the sessions. For my presentation, Geography and the Media, I welcome receiving copies of or links to media reports, programs, etc., which address questions raised in the abstract. In addition, however, I welcome receiving copies of or links to media materials which demonstrate the pertinence of geographers and geography to matters of public interest. (The test here is basic: items that are 'published' by the media are deemed to be of public interest.) I look forward to receiving materials and reference information at the earliest opportunity. Thanks are given in advance to all who contribute materials. 15
  • 15. The second message to Caglist members was posted May 13, 2005: Readers are requested to contribute to Geography and the Media: Strengthening the Relationship, which I am presenting at the CAG 2005 symposium on Projecting Geography in the Public Domain in Canada. I am preparing two tables that report on media stories involving geographers and geography, respectively. I have an urgent need for a dozen or so contributed items. Please send the following information on a media story in which a geographer is involved as author, interviewer, interviewee, etc. Media includes print, radio, TV, Internet. Name and Affiliation: Title of Story: Source and Date of Story: Use of Geographer: Eg., author, expert, provided data, panelist, commentator, resource person, provided references to materials, supplied maps, provided direction for the story, etc. Please send the following information on a media story in which geography is involved. Title of Story: Source and Date of Story: Use Made of Geography: Eg., geography or geographic term mentioned, geography intrinsic to story but no mention of anything geographic, GIS discussed, meaning of congestion analyzed, maps showing spatial interaction featured, NIMBY discovered to have a geographic aspect, insight gained into the role of geography in location of homeless shelters, geographic factors found to influence travel behaviour and obesity, global warming, etc. By way of brief comment on the materials that continue to be assembled for (an expanded) Table 4, they establish that geographers have been involved in stories in all the media. More specifically, geographers have been involved in stories dealing with both curiosity-driven and client-driven research, and a variety of subject matters. Moreover, the “use” of geographers by the media includes all the research activities identified in Figure 1, the transforms in Figure 4, and involves many of the geographic terms and concepts listed in Table 1. Viewers of the posted draft of the presentation, and recipients of the Caglist message, are also invited to send materials for a possible expansion of Table 5 before the Symposium, time and resources permitting. In the interests of space and time, and recognizing that we are at a very preliminary stage, it is requested that the “Use made of Geography” line in Table 5 be described or demonstrated via keywords. Figures 1 and 4, and Tables 1, 2 and 4 provide a number of keywords that should be pertinent to completing this row. 16
  • 16. Table 4. Geographers in the Media: An Initial, Limited Compilation of Stories in Which Geographers Are Named Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, Ministry of State for Urban Affairs Title of Story: Taking steps towards the end of the automobile era Source: Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 9, 1975 Use of Geographer: Author of editorial page column, Citizen Forum, on why and how Canada in general and Ottawa in particular should move away from the car as a dominant force in our way of life, including references to the impending energy-shortfall problem, and the failure of governments at all levels to respect the highest and best use principle in car-oriented transportation policies, plans and programs. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Coming soon- the instant answer age Source: Geelong Advertiser, Geelong, Australia, Dec. 3, 1981. Use of Geographer: Interviewed as keynote speaker at AURISA 81 conference on impact of information technology on councils, planners, and society. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Professor’s Doomsday Map relies on headlines, grandchildren and gut feeling Source: Ottawa Citizen, October 25, 1990 Use of Geographer: Interviewed by columnist Roy MacGregor about plenary presentation at GIS/LIS ’90 in Anaheim, California on “mapping our demise”. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Megacity Source: CBC TV, Newsworld, November 7, 1997 Use of Geographer: Panellist for amalgamation discussion, cities of Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Montreal. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Great Moments in Transportation Source: CBC Radio One (This Morning), June 2, 1999 Use of Geographer: Interviewed by host Michael Enright on major events in the field of transportation as part of the CBC One Millenium Series. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Geographer identifies ‘critical failures’ at urban intersections Source: The Centretown BUZZ, August 23, 2002 Use of Geographer: Interviewed for story on Walking Security Index research. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Urban/Rural Divide? Source: City Desk-Ottawa Citizen, Channel 22 (Rogers) April 29, 2003 Use of Geographer: Panellist on Ottawa development issues involving differences in urban and rural perspectives, and lack of a harmonizing vision. 17
  • 17. Table 4. (Continued) Geographers in the Media: An Initial, Limited Compilation of Stories in Which Geographers Are Named Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Stop 417 projects, says U of O Prof. Source: The News (Ottawa), October 28, 2004 Use of Geographer: Column based on a series of communications to Minister of Transportation H. Takhar and Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jim Watson concerning futility of road-widening projects, and proposing a sustainable transportation test in order to analytically compare the full benefits and cost of alternative transportation modes (walk, cycle, transit/rail) and the private motor vehicle mode. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Intersection Wars Source: CBC Radio One-This Morning, September 3, 1999 Use of Geographer: Interviewed by Michael Enright about urban transportation conflicts among pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Road Rage, Rage routière |Source: CTV News, Radio-Canada, July 12, 1999 Use of Geographer: Commentator on road rage incidents, with emphasis on how road design and enforcement strategies need to be combined. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Choosing a Future: A New Economic Vision for Ottawa Source: Ottawa Citizen, June 7, 2000 Use of Geographer: In an Editorial page exchange of views with the mayor of Ottawa. Column discusses methodological flaws in consultant report about Ottawa’s economic development options, including failure to recognize prior work by geographers in the field of urban, industrial, etc., clusters. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Walking Security Index Research Source: CBC Radio One-As It Happens, April 23, 2000 Use of Geographer: Interviewed to discuss origins, design, findings and implications of the Walking Security Index research project on pedestrians’(security (safety, comfort, convenience) in cities across Canada. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: A valuable new way to map our land Source: Ottawa Citizen, November 17, 2004 Use of Geographer: Author of editorial page column on how advancements in the fields of geographic information systems and geographic information sciences are contributing to geographic research, as well as to government and business operations and applications. 18
  • 18. Table 4. (Continued) Geographers in the Media: An Initial, Limited Compilation of Stories in Which Geographers Are Named Name and affiliation: Daniel Cossette, Ghassene Jerandi and Genvieve Cool, Laboratory for Applied Geomatics and GIS Science (LAGGISS), University of Ottawa Title of Story: U of O geomatics scores Source: The Fulcrum, Issue 7, October 14-20, 2004. Use of Geographer: Students featured in a story describing the projects recognized for excellence in a national mapping competition. Name and affiliation: Michael Sawada, University of Ottawa. Title of Story: Firm maps road to relief Source: The Ottawa Sun, Jan 11, 2005. Use of Geographer: Source of information explaining of how DM Solutions and the Laboratory for Applied Geomatics and GIS Science (LAGGISS) worked together to help provide online maps for regions in Southeast Asia affected by the tsunami. Name and affiliation: Melanie Zahab, Laboratory for Applied Geomatics and GIS Science (LAGGISS), University of Ottawa. Title of Story: Interview for Tsunami Mapping Source: RDC Telejournal, Jan 12, 2005. Use of Geographer: Interviewed for a story on the characteristics of the web portal that was created to support the creation and dissemination of online maps as part of the LAGGISS and DM Solutions involvement in the Southeast Asia tsunami relief effort. Name and affiliation: Michael Sawada, University of Ottawa. Title of Story: Interview for Urban Health Source: CBC Radio 1, Feb 28, 2005. Use of Geographer: Interviewed for story on how Ottawa’s design affects the well being of residents, with emphasis on how GIS and GISc apply geographic terms and concepts (see Table 1) to perform the analyses. Name and affiliation: Barry Wellar, University of Ottawa Title of Story: Downtown pedestrian-friendly – But expert in pedestrian planning doesn’t give Moncton suburbs high marks, saying they are geared to the automobile Source: Times & Transcript (Moncton), May 31, 2004 Use of Geographer: Interviewed for columns and editorials on the development of the Walking Security Index, the contribution of geographic concepts to the design of the Index, the reasons behind the factors (variables) selected for the Index, an explanation of the importance of walking to the implementation of alternative transportation strategies, and for an expert opinion on the level of success achieved by the active transportation network plans and programs adopted in Moncton to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and walk or bike. 19
  • 19. With regard to Table 5, the listed articles are a very small fraction of the materials compiled for previous projects extending back in time some 40 years, and more than and more recently for this assignment. Moreover, they are a miniscule fraction of the number of media stories obtainable from electronic searches using many of the terms in Table 1. Indeed, and as my students learned over the many years that I included a newspaper search and review assignment in a course on Methods of Geographic Research, lack of care in designing the search algorithm can yield a crop of output that cannot be harvested. I hasten to add, however, that the widespread presence of geographic terms or concepts in a number of stories is often only an indication that geography occupies a “popular” place in the media. More specifically, and somewhat along the lines of “term dropping” when writing journal abstracts in order to get lots of hits and potential citations, adding a bit of geography to a story can give it the appearance of grounding to compensate for lack of field work. More intensive research than can be undertaken here is required in order to ascertain the “clout” or significance of geography to the issue, decision, choice, process, outcome, etc., of each media story. One matter of specific interest would be to ascertain the extent to which stories tend go beyond description to explanation and prediction, and the extent to which the stories incorporate elements of the geofactor in association with design, forecasting, prescription, evaluation, or impact assessment studies undertaken for governments, businesses and other clients. This is a classic content analysis/synthesis task, and a number of the pertinent terms to upon which to base such studies are presented in previous tables and figures. An instructive model in this regard may be the client-driven research report, Newspapers as a Source of Fact and Opinion on Pedestrians’ Safety, Comfort, Convenience: A Keyword-Based Literature Search and Review (Wellar, 2000). That project demonstrated how keywords could be used to identify newspaper articles that related directly to the spatial features of intersections, and the modifications needed to improve pedestrians’ security. Even more important, however, applying the spatially oriented keyword search procedure to newspapers was instrumental in developing and applying the concept of “critical failure” to measuring and assessing intersection performance. I believe similar searches in other domains would yield a number of stories that put the work and image of the geography community in a very positive light. Among other reasons for my confidence in this regard is the fact that a number of researchers have found the media to be a valuable source of ideas and inspiration, and an excellent arena in which to receive feedback on the publicly perceived relevance /utility of our work. It is my experience that geographers who wish to be successful in the domain of public policies, plans, or programs are well-advised to run their work through the media test as often as circumstances permit. To close off Q2, it is necessary to raise the matter of what might be termed the “glitches” in the relationship between geography and the media. That is, if all were well in the geography-media relationship, then there would be little point to this session at the Symposium other than to generate some “feel good” publicity. It is my opinion, however, that there are more than just some rough edges to deal with, and that this is the time and place to begin putting our differences on the table so that we can reconcile them and then move forward. 20
  • 20. Table 5. Geography in the Media: An Initial, Limited Compilation of Stories in Which Geography and/or Geographic Terms and Concepts Are Named. Or Not! Title of Story: Bloc backtracks on rights of natives after separation Source: Ottawa Citizen, May 27, 1994 Use Made of Geography: Political geography concepts central to analysis. Title of Story: Don’t underestimate the threat of global warming Source: Globe and Mail, April 17, 1995 Use Made of Geography: Numerous geoterms, mostly implicit references to geographic concepts. Title of Story: Wildlife knows no boundaries, needs protection Source: Montreal Gazette, January 30, 1997 Use Made of Geography: Geofactor terms and concepts central to letter about Canadian Endangered Species Act (Bill C-65). Title of Story: Telework makes sense for Toronto Source: Toronto Star, March 9, 1998 Use Made of Geography: Geofactor and geoterms central to discussion of why and how sprawl occurs, and why and how telecommuting can be part of an enlightened alternative transportation strategy. Title of Story: Icecap gone in 50 years, study warns Source: Ottawa Citizen, December 2, 1999 Use Made of Geography: Numerous geography concepts and terms referenced, explicit regard for geotechniques and geoanalysis. Title of Story: Quarter of mammals face extinction Source: Vancouver Sun, May 22, 2002 Use Made of Geography: Encroachment of habitat concepts and competition for space underpin article. Title of Story: Cities Source: CBC-The National, January 1, 2004 Use Made of Geography: Provided spatial context for compare/contrast analysis. Title of Story: The promised land and a double garage Source: National Post, April 22, 2005 Use Made of Geography: Geofactor, geoterms and map central to analysis of urban growth initiatives in U.S. and consequences. 21
  • 21. Table 5. (Continued) Geography in the Media: An Initial, Limited Compilation of Stories in Which Geography and/or Geographic Terms and Concepts Are Named. Or Not! Title of Story: Rural residents unreasonable about wards Source: Ottawa Citizen, May 5, 2005 Use Made of Geography: Spatial reference for letter on size of rural wards and fair representation for all residents in Ottawa Title of Story; Amalgamania Source: CBC Radio-This Morning, March 09, 2001 Use Made of Geography: Political and human geography concepts central to panel discussion of impacts of amalgamation on citizens and municipal institutions Title of Story; Geographically Challenged? No way! Source: Manitoulin Expositor, March 30, 2005 Use Made of Geography: Focus of photograph and caption for item on junior division finalists, Geography Challenge, Central Manitoulin Public School Title of Story: Le sort des piétons Source: Émission d'affaires publiques à Radio-Canada (télé): ENJEUX du 15 mars 2005 Use Made of Geography: Utilisation de la carte en toile de fon du reportage. Référence aux aires les plus problématiques pour les piétons, incluant des quot;témoignagesquot; de victimes... Title of Story: Piéton à Montréal: Bipèdes en danger Source: La Presse, lundi 2 mai 2005 Use Made of Geography: Section de 2 pages, incluant une quot;carte de l'insécurité routièrequot; qui montre le nombre de piétons blessés dans chaque arrondissements. (Commentaire: peu d'emphase sur la géographie du problème, mais emphase sur des quartiers problématiques!) Title of Story: Fixing the Ontario Municipal Board: A Strategic Approach for Citizen Groups Source: Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods, www.urbanneighbourhoods.ca, May 2004 Use Made of Geography: Numerous concepts from political geography and principles from planning combined in a set of strategies to be employed by community groups in discussions with Province of Ontario on how to reform the dysfunctional agency. Title of Story: Healthy cities, healthy economy Source: Toronto Star, June 26, 2001 GIS Café. Use Made of Geography: Numerous references by Judy Sgro, Chair, Prime Minister’s Urban Task Force, to geographic terms and concepts (access, place, location, districts, open space, areas,…) in a speech on cities and Canada’s economy. 22
  • 22. Table 5. (Continued) Geography in the Media: An Initial, Limited Compilation of Stories in Which Geography and/or Geographic Terms and Concepts Are Named. Or Not! Title of Story: Rural residents unreasonable about wards Source: Ottawa Citizen, May 5, 2005 Use Made of Geography: Spatial reference for letter on size of rural wards and fair representation for all residents in Ottawa Title of Story; Amalgamania Source: CBC Radio-This Morning Use Made of Geography: Political and human geography concepts central to panel discussion of impacts of amalgamation on citizens and municipal institutions Title of Story; Geographically Challenged? No way! Source: Manitoulin Expositor, March 30, 2005 Use Made of Geography: Focus of photograph and caption for item on junior division finalists, Geography Challenge, Central Manitoulin Public School Title of Story: Great Lakes clean-up at a critical turning point Source: Canadian Geographic, Vol. 110: No. 6, Dec’90/’Dec91 Use Made of Geography: Many terms and concepts from Table 1used to describe, explain predict condition and state of the Great Lakes, very effective use of location map and photographs to illustrate text and support argument. Title of Story: What’s Burnaby Council doing? The library has all the answers. Source: Vancouver Sun, September 14, 1987. Use Made of Geography: Location of Skytrain extension and properties affected by re- zoning applications used to demonstrate utility of Burnaby’s emerging on-line resource for obtaining data/information from City hall documents. Title of Story: Out of sight, out of mind Source: Globe and Mail, August 23, 1991 Use Made of Geography; Highly exhortative column, minimal regard for the geographical aspects of the waste disposal problem, and no apparent awareness of numerous geographical works in this domain. Title of Story: McCallion opposes toll road for Niagara: Mid-peninsula corridor fees would turn QEW into parking lot. Source: The Review (Niagara Falls), November 09, 2002 Use Made of Geography: Hazel McCallion, Mayor of Mississauga and Chair of the Greater Toronto Area Smart Growth panel, comments on the area’s traffic congestion and garbage problems. The story does not mention that lack of regard for geographic considerations over many years earned Mayor McCallion the title, “Queen of Sprawl”. 23
  • 23. On the presumptions, therefore, that honesty is (still) the best policy and that the sooner sticking points are dealt with the better, a list of “glitches” or “bones to pick” was compiled. The following are presented to illustrate why the geography community has cause to want the media community to do a better job in terms of how it uses our work and projects our image in the public domain: • The geography community and geography have not been included in many media stories that fall within our scope. While this oversight may be seen to have an element of professional pride to it, the more serious concern is that matters of public policy, for example, may be subjected to inferior and perhaps even erroneous treatment in the absence of due consideration being given to the geographic aspects of cause-effect forces. • Understatements and misrepresentations about the importance of geographical factors have frequently occurred in media stories. • Proper attributions of geographers and their works have frequently not been made in media stories. • More often than we might wish, media stories deemed significant by the geographic community are not considered newsworthy by the media, including the media relations staff in our own institutions. • Too many members of the media have a sense of geography that is 30 years out of date, and our image has been diminished as a result. Those are major causes for concern about how our work is used, abused, or mis-used by the media. Further, the negative images that each shortcoming could project in the public domain compound the problem. While in-depth investigations of those kinds of concerns are beyond the scope of this assignment, they will need to be considered in an action plan to strengthen the geography–media relationship. Contributions towards that end are made in the responses to Questions 3, 4, and 5. Q3. Has It [the Geography Community] Done as Much as It Might to Project Its Work in the Public Domain? Following from the “it depends” condition noted at the beginning of Part I, the response and reactions to the response to Q3 depend upon how high or how low we set the bar of expectations. Further, in the absence of being able to survey the community about its activities, the only avenue available to this project to achieve even a preliminary assessment of the community’s performance, is to look to the literature for evidence of effort. It appears reasonable to suggest, upon careful examination of Table 3 and Table 4, that the literature is an especially pertinent measure on to begin the assessment process for responding to Q3. Indeed, even the tough markers among us might be inclined to agree that if the geographic community is performing solidly in all aspects of the literature and the media which are listed in Tables 3 and 4, then we can have confidence in believing that we are doing a very good job of projecting our work in the public domain. 24
  • 24. Bearing in mind, therefore, that I do not have documentation on all the non-literature-related activities in which members of the geographic community engage, and that I am dealing solely with our contributions to the literature, one further distinction needs to be made. That is, individual members and organizations may have done their best to project their work in the public domain in general, and in the media in particular, and have been rewarded for their efforts. No doubt, names of these individuals, agencies, associations and businesses will be known to the reader. However, with regard to the geographic community as a whole, it appears likely that we have not done as much as we might. Table 6 contains observations that outline how, in my view, we have not done as much as we might to project our work in and through the media. The observations, which can also be interpreted as ways to improve our performance, are based on several recent literature searches for projects, publications and public lectures, as well as consultations with colleagues. In addition, I applied the figures and tables in Part I to put Q3 in context, and to provide a framework for deriving the assessments. The impressions contained in the response to Q3 are a first cut at assessing the effort that the geographic community as a body -- individuals, associations, businesses, government agencies, etc., -- has made to project its work in the public domain. The list is intended to be indicative, and no claim is made about comprehensiveness. However, if even several of the impressions are on target, then it appears fair to say that there is much to be done by the geography community to more effectively project its work in the public domain in general and in the media in particular. Which brings me to the matter of the specific activities that the geographic community can undertake to assist or encourage the media to project the work of the community in the public domain. As shown by Table 7 and Table 8, there are intervention and invitation aspects to these activities, and both are pertinent to assessing whether we have done as much as we might to project our work in the public domain. Since the reader is no doubt fully aware of the general distinction between interventions and invitations, that topic is not discussed in the presentation. Instead, the focus of our attention is on the elements that comprise interventions and invitations, respectively, and the intimate relationship between interventions and invitations. It is possible that many individuals and organizations in the geographic community are making the kinds of interventions listed in Table 7, and are doing all they can to project their work in the public domain. It is also, possible, however, that a number of members and organizations are not fully engaged in these kinds of activities. To the extent that the latter condition holds, the geography community is not doing as much as it might to project its work in the public domain. With regard to the matter of invitations being extended to contribute to stories, they are highly dependent upon the record of interventions previously achieved by individuals and organizations. That is, when members of the media are considering who to involve in stories, they tend to want to examine the track record of media activity before making contact, much less committing to an interview, accepting an opinion, going on a site visit, publishing data, etc. 25
  • 25. Table 6. Has the Geography Community Done as Much as It Might To Project Its Work in the Public Domain? I Don’t Think So* 1. Relatively few members of the geographic community have made significant contributions to all the curiosity-driven and client-driven research activities listed in Figure 1. 2. Relatively few members of the geographic community have made significant contributions to creating and improving the connections between geography, curiosity-driven research, client-driven research, and the media (Figure 2). 3. As suggested by the design of Figure 3, and the small amount of overlap among the “petals”, relatively few members of the geographic community have contributed (to) media stories that present the best of geographic research through combining the methodologies of both curiosity-driven and client-driven research. 4. The higher-level information-to-knowledge phase of the data-to-knowledge process (Figure 4) receives relatively less regard from members of the geographic community than the lower level reality-to-data and data-to-information phases. 5. Relatively few members of the geographic community have made significant contributions to all the literatures listed in Table 2. 6. Relatively few members of the geographic community have made significant contributions to stories carried by all the media listed in Table 3. 7. Relatively few conferences organized by the geographic community include members of the media as speakers or discussants. 8. Relatively few proceedings of seminars, conferences or colloquia organized by the geography community include papers by journalists, columnists or media researchers. 9. Relatively few research publications or books authored by geographers use or cite stories in the media as sources of fact or opinion. * I hasten to add that I will be pleased to amend any entry in Table 6 as soon as I receive evidence that an impression is in error. Moreover, as a potential contributor to the cause of achieving an empirical assessment as to how much the geographic community has done or might do to project its work in the media slice of the public domain, I would be pleased to discuss Table 6 with any students undertaking thesis or dissertation research in this field. 26
  • 26. Table 7. Opportunities to Project Geography Through The Media: By Intervention 1. Write letters to the editor 2. Write guest columns 3. Write articles 4. Seek meetings with editorial boards to discuss potential stories 5. Propose site or field trips to illustrate basis of a potential story 6. Send maps, graphics to journalists 7. Participate in call-in shows 8. Write media releases 9. Suggest stories/features 10. Send publications 11. Send tapes 12. Send CD-Rs 13. Send copies of correspondence 14. Distribute information brochures 15. Disseminate press releases 16. Post materials on web sites 17. Initiate group mailings An equally and perhaps even more important matter for the geography community, however, is one that goes far beyond just trying to figure out how to get invitations to do stories. The focus of this comment involves the intimate intervention-invitation relationship noted above. Because of the connections between interventions and invitations, the question of “whether we have done as much as we might” needs to take into account what we did to precipitate media invitations, and the extent to which we made the case for geography in the interventions. That is, at the risk of belabouring the potentially obvious, the more and better we make the case for geography in our interventions, the higher the likelihood that the invitation will have a basis in geography. The list of potential interventions identified in Table 6 is presented as a starting point for assessing our performance as intervenors, advocates, and activists. Further, and in addition to asking about the products and services that we have to offer the media, a critical assessment requires that we also ask ourselves whether we have done as much as we might to help create or sell stories to producers, editors or publishers. As noted by members of the various media, and media relations staff at the University of Ottawa, there are many potential stories. However, only a limited number of them are going to receive media attention, much less be published in the media literature. The message for the geographic community, therefore, is that if we expect to receive invitations that result in coverage, then we must respect the two-step process. That is, after we earn the invitations to contribute to stories, we must then do what we can to ensure that the contributions are projected in the public domain.. 27
  • 27. In terms of doing as much as we can to earn invitations, one avenue involves establishing reputations that induce members of the media community to contact us in story situations. The following have been suggested as part of the set of characteristics of individuals who are likely to be seen as candidates to receive media opportunities to participate in stories. I note that while most of the characteristics appear to apply across the media, the importance of several characteristics depend upon the particular medium involved. • Known as a source of ideas that have a ‘hook’ for the media. • Known for having a “sense of audience”, that is, being able to perform at a level or in a manner most likely to be appreciated by the story audience. • Known for subject matter knowledge that goes beyond so-called “common sense” • Known for clear, concise, spot-on writing skills. • Known to be a ‘quick-response’ for facts, explanations, and commentary. • Known for crisp, articulate, to-the-point interview skills, and especially not subject to hemming-and-hawing. • Known for being ready, able and willing to express a professional opinion. • Known to be able to admit not being an expert on a topic outside his/her realm of expertise. • Known as an expert with a distinct point of view or understanding. • Perceived to have a strong and dynamic personality, that is, not boring! • Able to call on appealing graphic support. • Regarded as thoughtfully provocative and provocatively thoughtful. • Able to speak without notes, crib sheets, cue cards, or reams of print-out paper in hand. • Ability to wait for the question without interrupting the interviewer. • Does not use bafflegab wrapped in technical nomenclature. Table 8 presents an indicative list of the by-invitation opportunities which are available to project geography through the media, and which build on the by-intervention opportunities contained in Table 7. In the absence of empirical evidence, it is not possible to provide a definitive comment on whether we are doing as much as we might in regard to receiving and acting on invitations to project geography through the media. (More on this in the response to Q6.) That said, it is my impression that the geographic community could do a better job of reputation building as a precursor to receiving invitations. In addition-, it is my further impression that our actual level of participation in media opportunities is considerably less than the potential. These two impressions require elaboration and justification. The basis of these observations is provided by the contents of Table 2 and Table 3 in Part I. These tables contain an indicative list of the literatures pertinent to a discussion about geography, and the various types of media open to us for projecting geography in the public domain. In my experience, relatively few geographers are in the habit of substantively dealing with all or even most of the types of literature listed in Table 2, or all the types of media listed in Table 3. To the extent that those impressions represent reality, we have room to improve on how often and how well we seize the opportunity to project geography in the public domain through the media. 28
  • 28. Table 8. Opportunities to Project Geography through the Media: By Invitation • Provide background information. • Provide data. • Provide maps, graphics. • Provide references to the literature. • Make recommendations about materials to read, listen to, or view. • Provide names of agencies to contact, experts to contact, web sites to visit. • Comment on the direction, context, and composition of stories. • Accompany journalists on site visits to intersections, wetlands, subdivision developments, crime scenes, glaciers, industrial plants, environmentally sensitive areas, schools, rezoning sites, shopping centres, light rail stations, highrises, flood plains, foothills, cemeteries, conservation areas, and anywhere else that involves bringing a geographic perspective to bear (recall Table 1) in describing, explaining or predicting situations, events, processes in our natural or built environments. • Illustrate how changes in technology (such as Geographic Information Systems) and methodology (such as developments in index design, and integration of text, numerics and graphics through advances in Geographic Information Science) contribute to geographic studies and applications. • Comment on public policies, plans, programs, or projects. • Comment on private sector activities. • Interpret materials in journals, government documents. • Do live and taped interviews for print, radio or television stories. • Provide analysis/synthesis support. • Report on research in progress, discuss findings. • Write position papers, manifestos, or columns. • Provide expert opinions, participate in debates. Q4. What would the media expect from an organization that was seeking to better project its work (in geography) in the public domain? This question has been slightly modified from the original so that it is self-contained, and the response to Q4 is not governed by the response to Q3. In this way, organizations can examine the nine impressions presented in Table 6 in section Q3, and can select for consideration those which are deemed more or most pertinent to their respective situations. Further, the term “organization” is first taken to apply to the bodies responsible for sponsoring, organizing, hosting and supporting the symposium, that is, the Canadian Association of Geographers, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Canadian Council on Geographic Education, and the Ontario Association of Geographers. In addition, however, since we are 29
  • 29. concerned about projecting geography in Canada, it is appropriate that we broaden our scope to include all the entities identified in the symposium outline: associations of all types; academic institutions at all levels and especially geography departments; businesses; corporations; industries; government agencies at all levels; as well as any non-government agencies or other organizations that I have not identified. A comprehensive response to Q4 is beyond the resources available for this assignment, as each type of organization warrants explicit attention. Simply put, since there may be wide differences among organizations’ efforts to project their work in the public domain, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not appropriate when it comes to prescribing remedial measures. Moreover, as illustrated above in Table 3, there are many aspects to “the media”, and great variations in scales of operation, market areas, scheduling of publications, technologies, human resources, etc. It therefore follows that using a one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to provide an informed answer to the question, “What would the media expect ...?” Instead, what is most likely required to deal with this issue effectively and efficiently is to treat each type of medium separately, that is, print, radio, television, Internet, and perhaps there are others. Organizations could then involve representatives from the relevant literatures and media in the formulation of strategies designed to serve and promote efforts (by organizations) to better project their work in the public domain. The situation confronting us in Q4, in brief, is that there is no easy, useful, robust, comprehensive answer to question four. That said, it appears highly likely that Q4 or a variation of Q4 will be front-and-center at the closing symposium session, Geography and its Future in Canada. Similarly, and as may be inferred from its presence in the symposium outline, what to do about media expectations is an issue of significant concern to the organizations responsible for the symposium. Regrettably, at this time I do not have a general much less a detailed “How to proceed” plan to put forward. However, I have identified two elements of that plan that involve inviting the media to assist in answering Q4. First, requests have been sent to several members of the various media to obtain their thoughts on Q4. Time and circumstances permitting, I will add materials to this part of the presentation in the next several weeks, and report the findings at the symposium. Second, numerous contacts with members of the media over a number of years are behind the development of Table 7 and Table 8. A selection of journalists, columnists, media researchers, and academics will be asked to review these tables, and to direct me to better tables if this work has already been done. If these tables do not already exist, then the members of the media community will be asked to propose revisions and additions based on their experience with the geography community. 30
  • 30. Q5. How can the media and geographic community [better] inform each other? The “it depends” condition noted at the outset of the response to Q3 needs to be made explicit for Q5. That is, the response to Q5 is very much shaped by what has been written in the responses to Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4. Further, in the event that the needed corrective measures to deal with Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 were taken, then it seems likely that Q5 would be a matter of relatively minor concern. Those two comments are deemed sufficient to establish that the observations which follow have a context, and that these observations should be considered and acted upon with due regard for that context. First, there is a need for members and organizations of the geographic community to accept the premise of Q5; namely, that it is in our best interest if “… the media and geography community [better] inform each other.” Upon achieving that state of mind, we then need to accept that the onus is on the geographic community to identify and implement ways and means of doing a much better job of informing both the geography and media communities of contributions to the media outlets listed in Table 3. The proposition at work here, simply put, is that such a mindset is necessary in order for geographers and their organizations to commit to building the foundation which is needed to establish geography as a significant player in an “Information Society”. Once the attitude adjustment process is complete, the geographic community can call on library science and Internet expertise to create an electronic means for connecting the media with media- active members and organizations of the geographic community. There is every reason to believe that with such a digital bridge in place, the media community will increasingly look to the geographic community to take advantage of the opportunities indicated by Figures 2, 3, and 4, and Tables 1, 4, 5 and 8. Second, the quest for a better geography-media relationship puts an onus directly on members of the geography community to be better scholars. Specifically, if we want to be held in high regard for the quality of our work, and the significance of our field, then we are obliged to better inform the media of work previously done by geographers who introduced ideas, provided analyses, raised questions, and provided expert opinions, etc., in the media months or years ago. To my mind, this is a very important matter, and one that requires further, explicit comment. To put the concern bluntly, work that has appeared previously in the media warrants far more active consideration than it is sometimes accorded by geographers who are casual about acknowledging that their comments, materials, etc., are in fact based on or derived from the work of others. Further, lack of regard by geographers for work previously by other geographers prompts a question with unsettling implications for the field of geography. That is, “If we do not recognize those who have laid the foundation for our current media interventions and invitations, then who will?” 31
  • 31. I hasten to add in partial reply that while economists, computer scientists, geologists, political scientists, sociologists, etc., use many of the geographic concepts listed in Table 1, they are not likely to herald the building block work done by geographers! There are notable exceptions to this observation, of course, including a number of the participants in a colloquium on economic development strategies that was organized by the writer (Wellar, 1981). However, one only has to peruse the GIS literature, for example, to confirm the validity of the comment about lack of due regard being shown to pioneering work done by geographers.* The objective of these comments is to emphasize that simply by exercising better scholarship, beginning with better referencing procedures, we have a quick-and-easy way for geographers to better inform the media about our work. Bearing in mind, therefore, that the popular literature is a class of literature, and the most consequential literature in the public domain, it is second-rate scholarship at best to claim or infer originality in media stories when the facts are otherwise. That is, we already have a record of media contributions. Geographers engaged in creating current stories should seize the opportunity to affirm that record by crediting the geographers who have gone before. I cannot immediately conceive of an easier, more effective way of simultaneously projecting our work, enhancing our image, and informing the media than by building on existing foundations. As a further comment along this line of thought, the creation of an electronic capability suggested above to inform us and the media about our media appearances is a precondition for eliminating the “missed opportunities” problem. Once that technology is in place, however, it would do much more than just aid and abet those who are inclined to give credit where credit is due. That is, such a capability would no doubt induce most media participants to carefully check the files for attribution purposes, since failure to do so could be a major source of difficulty if scholarship and idea theft concerns arise. Third, the decision to include a session on Geography and the Media in this symposium is already serving as a catalyst to engender more discourse between the media and geography. Based on comments received to date from both the media and geographic communities, including offers to participate in further discussions, it appears fair to say that the session and symposium represent a significant step towards addressing the question, “How can the media and the geographic community [better] inform each other?” Q6. How could geographers be helped to deal more effectively with events like the Montreal ice storm that are seared in the public mind as experiences and yet beg wider understanding? * Geographers are by no means alone in adopting what might be termed a ‘casual attitude’ when it comes to proper attribution in media stories. Research on a related project now in progress has identified numerous stories in which journalists, as well as current and former politicians at all levels, appear to have ‘borrowed’ liberally for columns and interviews. While not as “upbeat” as some of the other aspects of the geography-media relationship, this is also a topic that warrants consideration if honesty is part of the better-informing process. 32
  • 32. At the risk of being trite, there are major differences in preparing for, versus actually delivering, an effective media story about geographical topics. That is, few geographic stories can be equally well presented by print, radio or television (the Internet is a separate matter) since differences in situations frequently require different skills in writing, telling, or telling and showing the story. Indeed, in cases where the story has a “hook” that makes it of popular interest to readers, listeners and viewers, the geographer may need to have a very high level of competency in all three media domains (print, radio and television) in order to do the story justice. Further, media officials are very aware of the different abilities and inclinations of their audiences to read, hear and view stories, and their “druthers” about how they expect a story is going to be presented. As a result, members of the media community frequently have their own ‘profiles’ on who in the geographic community should be contacted to contribute to a story, and how that story is to be written, told and/or shown. With those comments as a frame of reference, the following ‘recipe’ is proposed to serve two purposes. It outlines a means for helping geographers deal more effectively with events in ways that “make the media happy”. Then, in addition to serving that societal function, the recipe also enables members of the geographic community to substantively contribute to the data, information and knowledge bases of the geographic matters under consideration. First, a second reading of this paper is recommended, with extra time spent on Figure 3 and Figure 4, and Tables 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8. There are numerous connections between and among the responses to Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, and Q5, and it would be imprudent to consider the following suggestions without having due regard for all that has been presented in the lead-up to Q6. Second, numerous possibilities emerge from the responses to Q1-Q5. However, in terms of practical, doable activities, three initiatives appear to warrant priority treatment as effective ways of helping the geographic community help the media community to better project the geographic community in the public domain. • It is essential that the digital facility for posting and accessing media stories involving geographers be established at the earliest moment. Once that capability is in place, consideration could be given to turning it into a data-information-knowledge resource organized around key geographic terms and concepts, such as those listed in Table 1. • There appears to be a major need for training programs, including short courses and workshops – all with an online emphasis for reasons of effectiveness and efficiency– which are designed to assist members of the geographic community acquire or sharpen skills needed improve our capacity to: - Write for the media - Talk to/with the media - Provide reference materials for the media - Prepare graphics for the media - Prepare videos for the media - Incorporate geographic factors, elements, dimensions, attributes, etc., in media stories. 33
  • 33. The third proposed initiative has the potential to put geography front-and-center in the minds of the media community when it comes to stories involving the concepts, processes, situations, and numerous other matters considered over the course of the symposium on Projecting Geography in the Public Domain in Canada. Moreover, this initiative is designed to take advantage of the effort invested in the symposium, and induce the media community to actively participate in strengthening the geography-media relationship. It is my experience that a number of members of the media community could benefit from increased ‘exposure’ to the subject matter, methodology, and technology of the field of geography, and to the many members of the geographic community who wish to strengthen the geography-media relationship. Discussions with editorialists, journalists, reporters, and media researchers indicate that the media community has considerable interest in strengthening the relationship between geography and the media. Further, members of the media community have actively supported the development of this presentation by their feedback on questions, and their suggestions on how to strengthen the geography-media relationship. Their support for this presentation, their contributions to the responses, and their suggestions on how the media community could help the geography community, combine to suggest initiative number three. • Using materials from Geography and the Media: Strengthening the Relationship as a foundation, and complemented by materials from the other symposium sessions, prepare a suite of “educational products” demonstrating how geography and geographers can help the media help the public to better understand the events and processes shaping Canada and Canadians. These products with their online emphasis would then be disseminated to media members and organizations. The motivation for this initiative is to capitalize on the momentum created by the Symposium, and to immediately put the suite of educational products into the hands and onto the screens of the two groups whose engagement is crucial to the success of the mission. That is: Current and future members of the media community, since they make the choices and decisions about whether and how geographers and geographic considerations are incorporated in a story. This direct outreach to members of the media is a critical first step towards strengthening the geography-media relationship. Our academic and vocational colleagues who are in position to incorporate the suite of educational products into the curricula of university, college and other post-secondary programs in journalism, communications, broadcasting, and related media and multimedia fields. This is an indirect way for the geographic community to relate to practicing members of the media community, but it appears likely that it could yield a very high, sustained rate of return on our investment. 34
  • 34. References Wellar, B. (Editor) (1981). National and Regional Economic Development Strategies: Perspectives on Canada’s Problems and Prospects. University of Ottawa Press. Wellar, B. (2000). Newspapers as a Source of Fact and Opinion on Pedestrians’ Safety, Comfort, Convenience: A Keyword-Based Literature Search and Review. RMOC Project No. 912- 33409 (Walking Security Index). Region of Ottawa-Carleton and University of Ottawa. Acknowledgements This presentation is a work in progress in the true sense of the phrase, in that contributions of materials and advice are being received even as the (first) pre-symposium draft if being prepared for transmitting to symposium organizers for posting. The following is therefore an interim note of appreciation to several individuals whose assistance was instrumental in completing this initial version of the presentation: Daniel Cossette, Laboratory for Applied Geomatics and GIS Science (LAGGIS), Department of Geography, University of Ottawa; Bob LeDrew and Sophie Nadeau, Media Relations, University of Ottawa; Patrick Dare, city editorial page editor, Ottawa Citizen; and, Marjorie Wellar, text editor. As usual, the content and all errors of the document are the author’s responsibility. Biographical Note Dr. Barry Wellar, Professor of Geography, University of Ottawa, is Policy and Research Advisor, Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods, Director of the Pedestrian Space Forum, and Member, Canadian Institute of Planners and the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. Dr. Wellar is Past Chair of the Applied Geography Specialty Group, Association of American Geographers, Past President of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, former President of the Carlingwood Action Committee (Ottawa), and former Vice-President of the Federation of Citizens' Associations of Ottawa-Carleton. Prior to joining the University of Ottawa in 1979 he was Assistant Professor and Research Associate at the University of Kansas, and then Senior Research Officer, Director, and Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of State for Urban Affairs, Government of Canada. Dr. Wellar has received numerous awards, including the Award for Service to Government or Business (Association of Canadian Geographers), the Horwood Award (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) the Anderson Medal (Association of American Geographers), the Merit Award (National Association of Towns and Townships), The Hall of Fame Award (Timiskaming District Secondary School), and The Rector's Award for Service to the University Through Media and Community Relations (University of Ottawa). Dr. Wellar has authored more than 200 publications, given more than 350 conference, seminar, and workshop presentations, and has been a principal in more than 700 media stories. Barry Wellar received his undergraduate degrees (B.A., Hon. B.A.) from Queen’s University (1964, 1965) and his graduate degrees (M.Science and Ph D) from Northwestern University (1967, 1969). He was born in Latchford, Ontario, and attended Cobalt High School. 35
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