Reflections on the World Conference of Science Journalists
At the end of June, the ABSW welcomed the 2009 World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) to London. Over 900 people attended, including myself (who had previously volunteered to help with the conference administration) and many other aspiring young science writers who volunteered their time to help steward and organise the event itself.
For me, the questions, debate and controversy were amongst the highlights. It gave us journalists the chance to do what we do best: 'scrutinise and challenge' on subjects from swine flu to the role of embargoes in science reporting and the economic sustainability of current publishing and journalism models.
As Pallab Ghosh, President of the World Federation of Science Journalists said in a speech, “In this time where there is so much free content, our job as journalists is to be constructively critical, ask awkward questions and be confident to have our own take on stories rather than simply trot out the agendas of campaign groups, revered scientific institutions or indeed our news editors."
I believe the significance and value of the conference should not be underestimated. The delegates from all over the world seemed invigorated by the chance to speak out on the long-term impact on the profession. Many acknowledged the need to change and improve the quality of science journalism on an international level. And a frequent mantra arising from sessions was the need to have international links and contacts to get the science coverage needed in an increasingly global news environment – something that events like this can help facilitate.
With all the inspiring discussions and the fantastic people I met, my personal experience of attending the conference was a joy. I volunteered with the conference committee for nine months and seeing the project develop from its early stages into a well-attended and interesting event was a personal delight.
The volunteer scheme encouraged and inspired a new generation of students to work in science journalism. They will tell others about the importance of good investigative journalism in this specialist field, and how science journalists can have their own voice, questioning and challenging any hype and bad science. I for one came away with new ideas and added motivation to make it as a science reporter.
For more information, summaries and reports from WCSJ 2009 visit the WCSJ website and news site, as well as the Best of WCSJ 2009 round up of resources on the ABSW blog.
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