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Ideas to improve science and health journalism in age of misinformation

World News Publishing Focus

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Ideas to improve science and health journalism in age of misinformation

By Corinne Podger

The Editors’ Roundtable – the last in a series of three events – was held to review recommendations from meetings of science journalists and reporters who cover science, held in London and Singapore.

Those previous workshops identified problems reporters who cover science face in the misinformation era, including the need to make science stories more appealing, relevant and relatable, especially to under-represented communities, and to improve the credibility and relevance of science reporters.

WAN-IFRA also launched a new resource site, Science in the Newsroom, at the Singapore meeting, and an accompanying report, Science in the Newsroom in 2019 – Keeping the facts straight.

In Glasgow, the editors heard a list of “11 things every science reporter needs their boss to hear” prepared at the Singapore session, which in turn had built upon the work carried out in the London workshop.

These included the need to give science greater prominence and respect in both levels of coverage and in newsroom processes such as editorial meetings, and the need for newsroom managers to give greater consideration to the potential of science stories to attract advertising revenue and engage new audiences, especially youth and children.

At breakout sessions in Glasgow, the participants who represented more senior roles in newsrooms pointed out additional challenges, including the need to translate research from languages other than English, particularly Chinese and Russian, and to improve and broaden the use of reliable statistics to boost the credibility of reportage.

At the end of the Glasgow session, the meeting approved the following recommendations:

1. Newsrooms should consider the introduction of senior science reporters and scientists as guest editors in newsrooms

2. Giving science greater priority in newsroom workflow and editorial meetings, rather than – as typically happens – putting it last or leaving it off the agenda altogether

3. Mainstreaming science in editorial output rather than – or as well as – placing it in specialist verticals or pull-outs

4. Creating specialist science positions in newsrooms or, where resources do not allow, ensuring science is covered in the same way as politics, business or sport by assigning science to a beat reporter

5. Creating databases of scientific experts, to serve as a resource for newsrooms that aren’t big enough or can’t afford a specialist science desk and in order to create better diversity in contributors

6. Develop better analytics to measure the impact and reach of science stories and their potential to help drive revenue

7. Create an in-house verification process for science stories

8. Provide training for scientists, and journalists who need to cover science, to improve the quality and accuracy of coverage

9. To encourage press officers to supply photos and video, and scientists and reporters to capture original images, rather than rely on overused and boring stock images, and to explore the creation of a collaborative database of copyright-free science images

10. To hold future roundtable events with scientists, journalists and press officers in order to find ways of improving newsroom processes and the quality of coverage.

The Glasgow meeting also looked at the opportunities that reaching children and teenage audiences offer in tackling misinformation behaviours earlier in life, and in building habits of consuming quality science coverage about critical issues such as climate change, and made the following recommendations.

First, to invite children into newsrooms to have them ask questions of scientists and journalists, and to incorporate science stories into new or existing sections and pull-outs aimed at younger readers, and second to look for influencers from the world of science to help tell great stories. All agreed that further effort in this area to explore options for greater engagement with this group would be beneficial for many newsrooms.

The outcomes of the Glasgow meeting will now be developed into projects that can attract funding and action.


WAN-IFRA External Contributor


2019-06-12 13:15

Author information

The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

The 71st World News Media Congress, the 26th World Editors Forum and the 3rd Women in News Summit took place from 1 - 3 June 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this blog, WAN-IFRA provides previews, interviews, summaries of the presentations and other useful information about the Congress.

Participants were also very active on Twitter throughout the event under the hashtag #wnmc19.

© 2020 WAN-IFRA - World Association of News Publishers

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