Communicating science during crises: what do generalist journalists need?

Published On: 12.02.2024Categories: news, Newsletter
Room full of seated journalists attending a workshop. One speaker is standing in front of them, sharing slides on a screen.

In January 2024, COALESCE organised a workshop on “Managing scientific information in times of crisis” in Trieste, Italy.

From the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change, from farmers’ protests across Europe to population ageing, generalist journalists increasingly have to deal with scientific issues. They have to communicate uncertainty and counter fake news in the face of ever-tighter deadlines. To help them develop the necessary skills and to equip them with suitable tools for these challenges, COALESCE organised a workshop on “Managing scientific information in times of crisis”, which took place in Trieste, Italy, on 26 January.

The workshop was organised by SISSA Medialab, formicablu and the Fiuli Venezia Giulia Regional Council of Journalists, and gathered 14 generalist journalists from across Italy to discuss the importance of properly managing scientific information.

In the first part of the workshop, Elisabetta Tola (science journalist and founder of formicablu) addressed some of the critical aspects of communication in times of crisis, such as the difference between an “emergency” and a “crisis”, the dos and don’ts of risk communication, and the role of journalists and media during such occasions. The second part was dedicated to the participants’ perspectives, and they were asked to share their own experiences, particularly concerning local news. In this part, through participatory activities coordinated by Paola Rodari and Laura Busato (science communicators at SISSA Medialab), journalists had the chance to reflect on how emergencies and crises affect their profession, both in terms of news production and in their relationship with readers.

The workshop helped to identify several common issues and needs shared among generalist journalists with diverse backgrounds. These will prove crucial for the development of the European Competence Centre for Science Communication, as well as the associated Science Communication Academy, as we prepare the necessary training and resources for generalist journalists.

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