Here are some properties of research that make it unique when compared to journalism. Write down one action or personal objective for each that might lead to working effectively with journalists. You can download a form here to type your answers.
Science is uncertain and communicating this effectively to non-specialists is challenging.
Research happens over many years, sometimes decades, and is incremental. ‘Breaking news’ findings are rare. The media operates at a much higher frequency than this and often focuses on breaking news.
It takes time and spaceto explain or discuss the nuances and complexities of research, and usually only a handful of people really grasp a research field. Journalists report to large numbers of people. It’s therefore impossible to communicate in the same way with both groups.
Science has many ‘languages’ because of all its fields and sometimes you need technical terms to explain very specific or complex things. But jargon alienates readers so journalists use technical terms sparingly.
Science can be very abstract, for example in its scale or the numbers it uses. A journalist’s audience is likely to be very diverse. Some will be great with numbers, others won’t. It can be difficult to translate complex statistical concepts into mainstream media.
Scientists mainly communicate with other scientists on a day-to-day basis. Journalists are always thinking about communicating with their audience, who are often non-specialists. Immersion in such different communication worlds can lead to different habits and styles.
Mainstream audiences don’t have to listen to you. A reader can drop a newspaper after the first sentence or a viewer can turn the TV off. There is little control in how much of your message gets across or whether it’s understood.