We stand for science journalism – video masterclass

We stand for science journalism – video masterclass

(Lead: Gabriele Hess-Fernandez, freelance science journalist)

We propose creating state-of-the-art online Video Master- classes in Science Journalism for all those who want to know how to reach and inform general audiences about science. The product: The 21st-Century’s Video Manual for quality science journalism.

WHY – Science journalists have great stories to tell, some touching hot political issues – like gene editing, global warming, nuclear power or space exploration. However, today the public challenges journalists’ trustworthiness in almost any social field. How can journalists remain trust- worthy and put quality reporting front and centre? Science journalists have long experience with public disbelief, for example in climate change; but science journalism is and has always been fact-checking journalism, thus providing the public with real depth, context and knowledge – not just speed. Who are the people producing some of the most exciting investigative science stories in the world? This project aims to hear their voices.

WHO – Stepping out of the background into the limelight of our cameras, ten leading science journalists from around the world – working for newspapers, magazines, books, broadcast news, TV documentaries or the Web – will report from the frontline, explaining how they actually work on a daily basis, in their office or not, alone or in teams.

WHAT – Ten short crafted talks will make a unique collection of personal Video Masterclasses curated by the very best of our profession. The journalists will reveal what they think, what they feel, and what they know. We will hear about authentic cases and get to listen to tales of frustration and success. Styles and voices will differ; that is what we want! Watching the videos will give us the intimate feeling of sitting right next to the best science journalists from around the world, hearing first hand how things really work. They will give concrete tips on strategies to communicate complex and contested issues in our so-called post-truth era. How to pick science stories out of the enormous amount of science being published? What matters for the general audience? How to develop an enticing story and ensure that it is evidence-based, accurate, impartial and independent? How to break stories first? How to deal with pseudoscience? How to interact with editors-in-chief? We will address such questions, yet always link them to concrete stories and personal experience.

WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT VIDEO MASTERCLASSES – Sure, some of the answers are already available – on paper (A Field Guide for Science Writers / The Science Writers’ Handbook, etc.). However, video Masterclasses are more powerful today than anything in written form. And we intend to work with truly international science journalists, who will report in their mother tongues. Subtitles will be in English, French, German and Italian. These Video Masterclasses will be timely resources for newcomers in the field, while expe- rienced colleagues, scientists or anybody interested in the quality communication of science will benefit just as much.

WHEN and WHERE – In 2019 the World Conference of Science Journalists in Lausanne will be the ideal opportunity to capture testimonies from active top level science journalists. It will also be the perfect platform for screening and presenting the first videos of this 21st-century video manual for quality factual science journalism.

HOW – High quality video production, measuring itself against cutting edge Masterclasses in the arts (www.masterclass.com) will be produced with a two-camera set-up – either in a studio or on location. But the journalists won’t be calmly sitting; they will all Stand Up for science journalism!

Every video lesson is going to be a unique personal talk that only these people could give. Each video will communicate one clear idea, have a clear graphical and musical identity combining video footage with original graphical elements. These will explain words, concepts, and ideas or visualize important points of view expressed by the science journalist. Appearing as if life drawn by hand on the running video in more or less thick brush strokes, they will give the impression of the support being the traditional journalist’s paper notebook. Both efficient and arty, these unique animations will sometimes make the viewers smile. However, we will always favour simplicity in order to enhance concentration on the content. The production budget without fees for travel, accommodation and sundry expenses is estimated at 9200 Euros for each 10-12 minute Masterclass video.

To finance this project, we will seek support from scientific, academic, and educational organisations and foundations sharing our goals: to improve the quality of science report- ing, support science and technology journalists, and to pro- mote the role of quality science reporting as a key feature in civil society and democracy. Our aim: to offer these videos to the world for free on the website of the World Federation of Science Journalists.

In order to best reach our public, we propose to pre-produce three of the videos and to screen them during the 2019 WCSJ in Lausanne.