What to expect when you’re going to be interviewed
This project started out with an email from a journalist. She was frustrated with the number of times she had dealt with scientists who, “demand to see drafts and place conditions on interviews retroactively.” She wanted to know if there was a blog or a how-to list for scientists that would explain how journalists work and what scientists should expect at each stage of the process.
One of our main focuses at Sense About Science USA involves providing resources and media workshops for graduate students, post-docs, and early career scientists to help them better bridge the communication gaps between science and the general public. So this question seemed an obvious one to be asked, though my response was disappointing: I didn’t know of any such resource. But what a great idea! And while we’re talking about this, why just a blog? Why not figure out what are the most common concerns and questions scientists have and see what the journalistic conventions are.
In the summer of 2015, I worked with our network of young scientists to see what their main questions and concerns were about being interviewed. With their arsenal of questions and guidance from several generous science journalists (especially, Wade Roush who was then heading MIT’s Knight Journalism Fellowship), we were able to put together a short survey to better understand how science journalists work, what the conventions are in their field, and what concerns they have. Finally, in September 2015, over a two-week period, we invited science journalists in the US to participate in our survey. In total 218 science, technology, health, environment, energy, and general assignment journalists took our survey.
The three guides you will find here reflect the data we accumulated, quotes from journalists who took our survey, and a few essays to better explain some of the main concerns we heard from each side. Our hope is that this will be a useful resource for many people – not only early career scientists. Feel free to print out the guides and let your colleagues know about them, as well as email us with any feedback you might have.
Thank you to all the scientists and journalists who helped us. Anyone who would like to see the raw data (which excludes respondents’ email addresses), can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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