The 8th World Conference of the Science Journalists is now on the way. After a full day of interesting workshops the opening ceremony brought to stage the famous Finnish modern folk dance group Katrilli, showing the oltimate way to dance to the 800+ WCSJ2013 participants from 77 countries.
Meaningful science journalism needs freedom
Science journalists are an integral link between society, science and journalism. One cannot help thinking that this role is vital. And it is, especially now that universal news agenda is crumbling dowm. We have social media and new tools for personalized communication.
Mass communication is dead and it is alive. Industrial way of organising journalism into media enterprises is fading away and the future is uncertain.
This is one of the big themes of this conference. How do you make money from science journalism?
So what is so special about journalism?
Journalism is a political movement, based on the idea of a free human being expressing his opinions.
It is a rather romantic thought but this is the value base that democracies fully endorse.
But can we never be really free to express anything we want? No, because freedom comes with responsibilities. This ethical code should bind all journalists worldwide. This is what we cherish in our professional training. Without ethical code a journalist is just like anyone else – with the ability to express him/herself in an attractive manner.
So we will start the conference with ethical reflection.
One thing that all the people in this room here share is a love for knowledge. Both journalists and scientist are very devoted to their work. Evidence and wisdom are part of knowledge. Using evidence and wisdom for the benefit of society means good decision-making, justice for all, quality stories and professionalism.
So the second day is called Our exciting work. We will explore core skills across cultures, hear voices from different parts of the globe and take a look into new ways of doing science journalism.
We in the Finnish Association of Science Editors and Journalists have talked a lot about the identity of a science journalist. According to a recent poll among our over one thousand members, the identity is an important question. People want to belong to a group and get support from each other.
My memorable moment was participating to the World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne 2007. I realised that our group of around 20 people had so many talented inviduals and I could learn a lot from them. Jari Mäkinen, our space specialist, gave a lecture of Southern skies with a stellar insight and I will never forget the moment.
Peer to peer is important in journalism and I will strongly encourage you all work in professional associations.
Global megatrends are obvious – energy, our vulnerable planet, big data, datajournalism, marketing, governments, denialism, climate change… Yes, science journalists are very much needed! The Internet has provided us wonderful tools but it seems to be a huge spying machine. This is not a great surprise but needs to be evaluated with a professional ethos of science journalism. What is important and what is not?
So we will end our conference with grand challenges of mankind. Science journalists are a part of solution but independent minds working according to the best practices of the profession. We have to be open to our mistakes and learn from each other. This is why peer to peer, networking and informal discussions are a best part of this conference.
I warmly welcome you to participate and make this a landmark event.
I am thankful for all the past World Conference organisers and the representatives of the World Federation of Science Journalists in this room. You have made an invaluable work and this conference has had a huge benefit from your efforts.
Special thanks for all the supporters of the Conference. University of Helsinki has given us this magnificent venue. Ministry of Education and Culture made this conference possible. Tieteen tiedotus gave us support in crucial time. Gold sponsors Qatar Foundation and Johnson and Johnson Innovation have given their firm support. Programme track sponsor GE and Silver Partner and offered good resources. Mediapartners Nature and SciDev.net have promoted our conference well.
This conference would not be possible without hundreds of hours voluntary work. Thanks to the executibe board of the Fasej, organising committee and subcommittee and the conference secretariat. You did your job well. Now it is time to get to the business. Let´s discuss about science journalism and make a difference to its global agenda.