UNESCO hosts workshops at Doha global science journalism conference
The Qatari capital Doha was a hive of activity during the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ 2011), held from 27 to 29 June 2011. Hosted by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, the Conference provided an opportunity for UNESCO to hold two pre-Conference workshops focusing on science journalism education curricula as well as on reporting climate change and biodiversity.
More than 40 teachers of science journalism attended the first workshop, primarily to discuss teaching science journalism related issues. Because WCSJ was held in an Arabic-speaking country, participants had a particular interest in serving science journalism teachers in the Arab world.
Speakers from Egypt, Lebanon and Qatar recommended that journalism curricula should include information about how science journalists can use social media (such as Twitter and Facebook), both as a source of information and as a way of distributing stories. The participants also suggested that priority be given to training professors on how to introduce science journalism into university curricula, both in science and in journalism.
"We know what teachers want to teach and what students want to learn," said Bruce Lewenstein, convener of the workshop and a professor of science communication at Cornell University (USA). "Now we need the detailed examples, assignments, readings, etc., designed for specific regions and languages."
For their part, science journalists argued that science needed a stronger presence in media in developing countries, because science and technology are central to development. Examples cited ranged from information and communication technologies (ICTs) and environmental issues (desertification, water availability, chemical waste, etc.) to medical issues (public health, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, etc.).
For its part, the second workshop on climate change and biodiversity brought together 20 journalists from African, Arab, Asian, Latin American and Pacific countries.
Facilitated by Mike Shanahan (Press Officer at the International Institute for Environment and Development) and James Fahn (Executive Director of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network), the workshop focused on introducing the participants to contemporary knowledge about the science and practice of climate change and biodiversity.
It also consisted of a session on the kinds of resources journalists need in order to effectively report on climate change and biodiversity. The final session was dedicated to practical skills, with the participants taking part in a mock newsroom exercise of how to pitch great story ideas on the myriad topics relating to climate change and biodiversity.
A Fijian participant, Ruci Mafi, noted the need for more time to be devoted to discussing the issue of biodiversity, suggesting that a follow-up workshop could be held at a regional level to narrow down the issue.
The event was a follow-up to the UNESCO-funded workshop at the previous World Conference of Science Journalists held in London in 2009.
The next WCSJ is scheduled for Finland in 2013.