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Science Communication: Talking to the Media


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Science Communication: Talking to the Media

  1. 1. Talking to the MediaA primer on developing a clear messagesfor the news media….(especially those pesky risky messages) Helen Chickering, Health & Science Journalist Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting October 24, 2012
  2. 2. News Reporters…..a bit aboutEducation/training/beat BS in Journalism or related field First job in a small news market Cover a general assignment beat (little bit of everything - planes, hurricanes and the latest BPA study) Work on more than 1 story a day Wear a lot of hats (photographer, editor) Must become “instant experts” Speak a lot of jargon! ”mos,sot, broll”
  3. 3. Talking to the Media Agenda Goals Glimpse inside the newsroom  Develop a better and a learn a bit about understanding of the people reporters. (general who cover your research. assignment not specialty) (they really aren’t out to get you!) Overview of the story  Develop a basic reporting process. How understanding of the story reporters choose, prepare reporting process and how you can maximize your “news for and produce stories experience” Head into the situation  How to handle….“Is this room… Brainstorming safe?”…and other frustrating and group discussion.. interview questions… Media communication tips and tools
  4. 4. A bit about News Reporters….The career: General assignment TV newsreporter Jeff Rossen  Education: 1996 Communications Degree (Syracuse)  First Job: Radio station in Utica, NY  Moved to local TV Note: Most news reporters spend their career here, in local news.  2008 – landed network reporting job at NBC News (general assignment)  Currently investigative reporter for the network
  5. 5. A bit about News Reporters(Most are generalists not specialists) The General Assignment Beat Michael Jackson’s Death Arsenic & Rice Consumer Reports
  6. 6. News ReportersA bit aboutA day in the life of a reporter 8am – Editorial meeting – get assignment 9am - Story research/interview set-up 11am Interviews (video/sound-TV/Radio) 1pm – Stop to cover nearby apartment fire 2pm – Review interviews (video), write story (edit script for TV/radio) 3pm Script review by editor/producer 4pm – Rewrite/submit story (or head into editing session-TV/Radio) 5pm - Live shot to intro piece (TV/Radio) 6pm - Rewrite for 11 o’clock news (TV/Radio)
  7. 7. a bit about News Reporters The Take Home Message Work on tight deadlines. Do you have time for an interview? – often means in the next hour.. Know a little about a lot. (generalists not specialists) Arent out to make you look bad. Dont want to get the story wrong, but often don’t know what they don’t know… Have little time to prepare for a story May have only read the press release, not the study. (May not understand the study)
  8. 8. A bit about News ReportersHow to use this information to improve your nextmedia encountero Tight deadlines - Return calls promptly Within the hour if possible. (even if the answer is no) Delays mean your side of the story may not be told. Generalists not Specialists - Know who you are talking to Ask reporters who they work for and the nature of the story. Prepare background material based on the level of reporter expertise/experience with your area of research. (reporter may not understand your field, much less the focus of your research) Little time to prepare for a story - Tell me what you know about this research A good way to get a feel for how much the reporter knows. Or doesn’t. Are you a science reporter? Have you read the study? are good questions to ask…o May be working off a press release - Hand out “the handout”….your insurance policy – Ask, “Have you read the study?" and have one on hand. Doesn’t mean they will ready it, so follow up with, “This is a complicated topic with a long history… I’ve got a one sheet backgrounder that might be helpful.”
  9. 9. Petri dish to publication The story reporting process…
  10. 10. The story reporting processStory ideas – Where do they come from?  Breaking news - disease outbreak, plane crash  Wire services: Associated Press/Reuters  Research news websites EurekAlert! & Newswise  Press Releases and pitches  Independent Sources (Reporter contacts)  Tips & ideas
  11. 11. The story reporting processOne Study….So many releases…
  12. 12. The story reporting processA bit about EMBARGOES  Many journals impose embargoes on their papers—requiring media to hold stories The story reporting process research paper on a until a specific date and time.  Embargoes affect your collaboration with PIOs and media coverage of your work.
  13. 13. The story reporting processYour role in the research news release  Meet with your research team first. Think about the important messages you want conveyed. (and concerns)  Why is this story important?  Discuss (with your research team) and create unified speaking points. Think about who will give interviews.  Tip PIOs early to a publication, even when a paper has just been accepted.  Be clear about your communication needs and expectations.
  14. 14. The story reporting processYour role in the research news release(working with your PIO)  Give quick feedback on release drafts, requests for interviews, and media requests.  Prepare background on your work and your field for the press release.  Think/talk about visuals. How will you show the story? (b-roll)  Respect the lay-level news release style. Do not rewrite the release into a technical paper.  If multiple institutions are involved, make sure everybody is on the same page about study points and messages.  Find out where the press release is going!
  15. 15. The story reporting processWhat makes a story newsworthy in the newsroom?Factors that influence the decision include:  Timing – Did it happen today?  Discovery – Is it new?  Impact – (or potential impact) Plane crash kills hundreds vs. a dozen  Prominence – actor vs. average joe  Proximity – happening close to home  Conflict – and controversy  Human Interest – babies & children, puppies, pregnant women
  16. 16. The story reporting processResearching the story…(Sources used in a typical local newsroom) Press release/(abstract/study) Internet search for background and other information The story reporting process Newsroom archives/reporter files Experts and other contacts
  17. 17. The story reporting processInterviewsFactors that affect who reporters choose to interview  Prominence in the story – The scientist who made the discovery  Puts a face on the story – The cancer patient who is benefitting from the research  Viewpoints – Outside source who can provide context, balance  Availability/Proximity – Are you available? Are you close?  Media friendly – Can you communicate to the reporter’s audience?
  18. 18. The story reporting process Preparing for the Interviewo Work with your research team and PIO toproduce a summary/new release on your findings.o Understand your right to know: who thereporter is, the story’s focus, etc.o Decide on the spokesperson for your researchgroup. (have more than one)o Develop/practice key messages : a simple andbrief summary of your findings, practicalimplications and limitations,o Think about what may be misunderstood.
  19. 19. The story reporting process Interview prepJargon and Complicated Concepts Develop, test, and practice quotes, anecdotes, and analogies (on a neighbor – not just a fellow researcher!) Develop an “elevator speech” that explains your research. Quantify your concepts at a lay- level. How small an object is compared to the tip of a pencil.
  20. 20. The story reporting processInterviews – communicating risk-- Many reporters use relative risk reduction or benefitestimates without providing the absolute data --  Drug XYZ is said to reduce the risk of heart attack by 50% (relative risk reduction),  A reduction from 2 cases in 100 untreated patients down to 1 heart attack in 100 treated patients. (Yes, that’s 50%)  In order to understand the true scope of the potential benefit, people need to know that it’s only a 1% absolute risk reduction
  21. 21. The story reporting process: InterviewsCommunicating risks Always express risk/benefit in a meaningful context that people can understand. Never talk of relative risk without clearly stating the absolute risk in simple terms.
  22. 22. The story reporting process: InterviewsCommunicating risks – Is it safe? Instead of avoiding the question – Explain what is currently known and precisely where areas of uncertainty still exist. Make sure the reporter understands the implications of your work. Be aware that even the most careful presentation of risks and benefits will not necessarily be read by others in the way that you intended.
  23. 23. The story reporting processBroadcast Interview dos & don’ts Do ask if interview will be live/taped Do not use notes Do feel free to “say that again” if you mumbled or got too wordy Don’t be afraid to pause Do feel free to add elements a reporter may not ask about Don’t ask to see a copy of the story before it is aired/printed!
  24. 24. The story reporting process….Interviews - If not you….then who?Others who may be interviewed in your place… Reporter working on study about pollution & asthma in children might interview: A researcher not involved in the study/field Clinicians who treat children with asthma Other voices – Parent of child with asthmaWho is qualified to comment on your research?(Think about this now…Come up with sources to offer reporter/PIO)
  25. 25. The story reporting processVideo/photos – Images should supportnarration/text 
  26. 26. The story reporting processVideo/photosImages can also overpower – sending thewrong message! 
  27. 27. The story reporting process Video/photos Doesn’t hurt to ask…. How are you going to show this story?
  28. 28. The story reporting processThe final product (TV/radio news story) may look a lot like the orange “public” pyramid….. Source: Communicating the Science of Climate Change, Somerville and Hassol, 2011Emerging science—Contaminants in food—need toconsider Risks and Benefits = GRAY area.
  29. 29. Etc… Take home messages… Being human without taking sides Working with Public Information Officers When the story doesn’t turn out like you hoped
  30. 30. Keep the conversation going… For more information, tips & resources check out: Thank you! Helen Chickering