Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Lorraine

Lorraine: Science Media Centre of Canada

Behind the scenes of science journalism

I have been spending my internship in Ottawa at the Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC). It's a non-profit organization, launched in September 2010. Its goal is to raise the level of public discourse on science by helping journalists access science experts and evidence-based research to be able to cover science in the news. Can you tell I have been asked that many times in past few weeks?

And what does the SMCC do to achieve these grand statements?

Well for starters, one of my favorite tasks is preparing the weekly Heads Up newsletter. This means going through the embargoed news releases on EurekAlert and a few other journals such as Nature looking for interesting, relevant, Canadian and international studies. Yes it is true, the journalists get a head start for their articles! The embargo gives them precious time to do a bit of research to prepare their story for their media outlet. We try to find research from a mix of the various sciences (from astronomy and physics to biology and health). Once all the SMCC members decide on the 10-15 most important news stories of the week, it's time to write their summary. The key is finding a catchy title and then summarizing the paper in 2 to 3 sentences. These summaries are suppose to incite journalists to write about this important research.

The rest of the time, we keep busy answering calls from journalists looking for help to find an experts (on lobster packing plant effluents for example) and sometimes with a very short deadline. The SMCC is always looking for new experts and journalists to add to their database; journalists need to know the SMCC exists and the SMCC needs to have a list of experts ready to answer their requests. The SMCC also hosts regular webinars for journalists with a panel of 2-3 experts. Before the SMCC hosts these webinars, the topic needs to be well researched, so the SMCC knows what questions and angle to take in during the webinar. The experts are also carefully chosen, they must be good “talkers” who can explain sometimes complicated science in simple terms. The mix of these various tasks and many others makes for an always busy little office!

I got to take part in Radio-Canada's Sudbury morning show Matin du Nord this Tuesday June 7th at 6:50am; host Yves Dubuc tested my interviewee skills as he questioned me about my experiences as a Scommie and my internship.

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