Activity 2.1 - What is a journalist’s world like?

Site: IHE DELFT OPEN COURSEWARE
Course: 2018 Science Communication Skills for Water Cooperation and Diplomacy
Book: Activity 2.1 - What is a journalist’s world like?
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Saturday, 27 November 2021, 7:05 AM

1 - Introduction

To work effectively with a journalist it’s crucial to understand their day-to-day work.

Read this blog post from a science writer; it gives an insight into their work habits, pressures, opportunities, routines and much more. 

2 - Activity instructions

  1. In your own notes, write down five key things the writer mentions about their working life. E.g. “They look at press releases to source stories”.
  2. In your own notes, look at the statements below. For each aspect of a journalist’s work, explain what that might mean for you. e.g. They look at press releases → develop my press release writing skills.
  3. Choose one to share with others and save this for discussion later. 

Journalists...

  • Work to tight deadlines
  • Have very strict word limits
  • Usually write for non-specialists
  • Are often non-specialists too
  • Adapt their writing based on the media outlet they work for
  • Usually - especially in news writing - write about very specific things
  • Write about the ‘newsworthy’ 
  • Often interview sources, but not always


3 - Suggested answers

 

Journalists...

What it means for you 

Work to tight deadlines

Respond as quickly as possible to  communication

Have very strict word limits

Be concise

Usually write for non-specialists

Don’t assume they know what you are talking about (but don’t patronise)

Are often non-specialists too

Predict misunderstandings that might arise and use simple language

Adapt their writing based on the media outlet they work for

Pick out the areas of your research that are of greatest interest to  their outlet

Usually - especially in news writing - write about very specific things

Know the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of your work. You will look at this more closely later on in the course.

Write about the ‘newsworthy’

Think like a journalist when talking to one. You’ll get a chance to practise this later on in the course.

Often interview sources, but not always

Practise being interviewed.

4 - Further tips

This insight alone won’t be enough to ensure that you work effectively with journalists. But it is useful to know how journalists and writers build their stories and what they look for when considering their options. 

  1. Scan - or if you have time read - this practical guide from SciDev.Net. It describes how to pitch to a science editor. Editors from different leading media outlets give their advice on what they look for when journalists pitch stories to them.
  2.  Choose the three most relevant to you as a researcher; which of these will inform the way you interact with a journalist? Even some of the less relevant ones will be useful in terms of understanding how the world of journalism works. 

5 - Suggested answers

A few suggested highlights:

  • Email or phone call? Find out their preferred mode of communication. Editors get lots of emails so they might prefer a phone call. It’s best to find out though.

  • Build on other news. Being aware of other stories that might be linked to your research can be useful and give you more opportunities to talk about your work.

  • Address the format. Consider whether there are any areas of your work that could be showcased through images, sound, or simply words.

  • Tailor your pitch to the publication. You need to talk about your research in a way that is compatible for the outlet in question or that you want to engage with.