The blurring lines between journalism and PR. How to preserve independence?
With budgets for independent science journalism shrinking, public trust in science communication is on the line.
Science journalism is suffering from newsroom downsizings and a global recession. ‘Independent’ news media are copy-pasting material supplied by universities; growing numbers of freelance science reporters are doubling as freelance writers for research organizations, NGOs, governments or companies.
In the field of science communication, players are switching teams without switching jerseys.
Is the line between journalism and PR fading? Can readers trust climate change stories when a reporter also gets income from climate research, or travels with all expenses paid? At what point does science journalism stop being independent? Should journalists worry about their own conflicts of interest just like they worry about those of others?
This session will feature an animated debate in which the audience itself will be seated in our version of the boisterous British House of Commons (HEAR HEAR!).
Sparked by the results of a new survey (all should participate!), participants will square off in a heated discussion. What are the trends, what (if anything) could we do to counter them?
Should journalists stop earning extra by writing for PR magazines, brochures or funding proposals? Should journalists disclose all potential conflicts of interest (such as free travel)? Should governments, universities and researchers stop financing journalists and/or media organizations? Should media reject sponsored science content? Could a new code of ethics help, perhaps, in making the slope less slippery?
Peter Vermij, now a Dutch science communications consultant for corporate, NGO and research organization clients. Previously Peter was an award-winning science reporter with 25 years of experience in newspapers, television and science journals including Nature Biotechnology and Nature Medicine.
Hans van Maanen, an award-winning freelance science writer and book author in the Netherlands. He wrote some twenty books on games, statistics and popular science. He specializes in statistics and authored the ‘Understanding statistics’ chapter of the WFSJ Online Course in Science Journalism.
Anne Sasso, a Vermont-based accomplished freelance journalist, equally at home in leading outdoor and science magazines as in the boardrooms of corporate clients. She contributed to The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything you Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age’. Today, she writes almost exclusively for corporate clients.
Kai Kupferschmidt, a freelance science journalist based in Berlin. He studied molecular biomedicine at the University of Bonn and journalism at the Berlin Journalism School. He works as a contributing correspondent for ‘Science’ magazine and edits a weekly science page at German newspaper ‘Der Tagesspiegel’.
Heikki Kuutti, a senior researcher in Journalism at the Department of Communication of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. His research includes investigative reporting and law and ethics in journalism. Before moving into research, Kuutti worked at regional Finnish newspapers. In between, he served as Head of Information at the Finnish Air Force.