Starting the conversation.



AUGUST 10-12, 2017

The SJE 1 kicked off on August 10 with a keynote talk by Dan Fagin, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and director of New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. His talk, titled "Connecting Dots and Chasing Butterflies: Communicating Science in a Dark Time," covered the power of evidence-based storytelling in a world awash in distrust and fake news. Fagin also expressed his optimism for future of science communication, even though it is facing many obstacles. The event was open to the public.

Part two of the SJE 1 took place at Concordia's Webster Library. There, a group of science journalism educators and science journalists gathered to break down how they view the role of science journalists and what's in store for the future of science journalism education.

Presentations by students from the Projected Futures summer course also took place. The 20 students, with science backgrounds but little to no experience in journalism, offered their positions on how scientific work should be covered in the media, but also the challenges that come with science reporting and possible solutions. 


Over the course of the SJE 1, three major themes came to light through the discussions and presentations:

1. Full-time versus part-time science journalism

2. The role of science in science journalism education

3. Science journalism storytelling techniques and tools

There was a general agreement that full-time science journalists are a thing of the past. In other words, the future of science journalism will be a small core of full-time professional journalists bolstered by many contributors. Science journalism education should therefore respond to this trend. What can we do to support generalist reporters in covering science, and make sure science journalism continues?

Nearly all participants spoke about how to tell science journalism stories, and the need for science journalism education to do some thinking and innovation around story-telling methods and tools—i.e., using digital platforms and data visualizations, audio, workflow tools, etc. 

The challenges around creating a compelling science story were outlined. For example, making science stories matter to their audiences by focusing on social and personal impacts; including multiple voices; using many platforms to tell one story; story-telling that “humanizes” science and inspires audiences to engage with scientific information. The key is for science journalists and science journalism educators to find ways of telling science stories that do reach, inspire, and engage those people who are not already engaged.