Science Journalism - Uganda - November 2012


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Presentation by Sharon Schmickle, Science Journalist, Minnesota
Delivered at the B4FA Media Dialogue Workshop, Kampala, Uganda - November 2012

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Science Journalism - Uganda - November 2012

  1. 1. Genes: Out of the laboratory, into the news. Sharon Schmickle Media Fellowship Program Biosciences for Farming in Africa October-November 2012
  2. 2. Opening by connecting “Shopping for food: we all do it, whether at the supermarket, or from traditional neighborhood shops, or in a market. It’s the modern equivalent of what our ancestors would have done in long-gone huntergatherer days.” --Noel Kingsbury, opening lines in the introduction of Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding
  3. 3. Please come with me  Open a door  Extend a hand  Lead the way
  4. 4. Speak to your audience A story about crops might speak to:  Farmers  Policy makers  Business leaders  Consumers  All of the above
  5. 5. Typical press release An international team of researchers, including a University of Minnesota scientist, has developed an integrated physical, genetic and functional sequence assembly of the barley genome, one of the world’s most important and genetically complex cereal crops. Results are published in today’s issue of Nature. --University of Minnesota, 17 October 2012
  6. 6. Translation No food is more basic than the lowly bean. From the campfire cuisine of the American cowboys to modern kitchens around the world, plants in the family known as legumes have sustained billions of people since the Stone Age. Thus, the nutritional power packed into your next bowl of beans is well known. The mystery has been the genetic code that directs the growth of these valuable plants from seed to mature pod. Now, the University of Minnesota is leading an international effort to crack that code. -- Sharon Schmickle, Minneapolis Star Tribune
  7. 7. Typical journal article Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a major crop plant and a model system for fruit development. Solanum is one of the largest angiosperm genera1 and includes annual and perennial plants from diverse habitats. Here we present a high-quality genome sequence of domesticated tomato, a draft sequence of its closest wild relative, Solanumpimpinellifolium2, and compare them to each other and to the potato genome (Solanumtuberosum). The two tomato genomes show only 0.6% nucleotide divergence and signs of recent admixture, but show more than 8% divergence from potato, with nine large and several smaller inversions. --Nature, 31 May 2012
  8. 8. Translation What is your idea of a dream tomato? Women selling the juicy globes in the markets, no doubt, would wish for a slow-spoiling variety so that today’s leftovers would sell tomorrow. Buyers, of course, would want luscious flavor. Growers would hope for fortification against yieldstealing pests. The day when all of those wishes could come true has been advanced by news published online in the journal Nature: tomato’s genome has been decoded. Now that scientists have the full genetic code of a common tomato, they have an unprecedented view of some 35,000 genes that make the tomato what it is. -- Sharon Schmickle, B4FA web site
  9. 9. Another approach: tell a story RUSSIA'S greatest plant scientists died of starvation rather than eat their collection. . . . By 1941, the Soviet Union had established an enormous gene bank of plants containing 187,000 varieties at the Institute of Plant Industry in Leningrad (now St Petersburg). When the city was blockaded by the Germans, so important was the collection some of the scientists gave their lives to save it. By January and February of 1942, temperatures had fallen to record lows of minus 36-40 degrees. Workers, numb with cold and emaciated from hunger, struggled to save the collection while bombs pounded nearby. And as the citizens of Leningrad began to starve, so did the plant scientists. . . . Around them were collections of peas, rice, corn and wheat. --The Economist, 6 August 2010
  10. 10. Try extending your own hand  Form teams  Identify the audience for your article  Craft a top that speaks to the audience  Share your creation
  11. 11. Now what? Your invitation was accepted. Now you must deliver the full story with  Accuracy  Clarity  Fairness
  12. 12. Thank You