Scientists and Journalists Join Workshop in Quito

Scientists at a Cox Center workshop for journalists held in Quito, Ecuador, in December called for a partnership between journalists and scientists to help disseminate information about ecological issues to the general public.

Approximately 20 journalists, journalism students and scientists attended the one-day workshop, held in conjunction with the Third International Symposium on Sustainable Mountain Development December 9-14 in Quito. The workshop for journalism was on the first day of the symposium and was designed to set the stage for interaction for journalists and scientists during the entire symposium.

"Journalists are the bridge for scientific knowledge to the community," Prof. Francisco Ferrando, Director of the School of Geography, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile, told the scientists and journalists present.

Dr. Lawrence Hamilton, Vice Chair Mountains, World Commission of Protected Areas, Vermont, U.S.A., and professor emeritus at Cornell University, echoed this theme. "I believe we have potentially great allies in the environmental journalists," Hamilton said.

According to Dr. Bruno Messerli, President, International Geographical Union, Bern, Switzerland, "We need a new dialog with the journalists."

The journalists present expressed an interest in cooperation. "Scientists must be willing to work with journalists," one said, "and that has not always been true in his experience."

Prof. Ferrando said scientists must "change their language style" and take other steps to help journalists understand the findings of environmental science. He recommended organizing workshops for journalists and making charts and other summary materials "that make it easier for the scientists to do their jobs."

Dr. Lee B. Becker, Director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, opened the workshop with an overview of the work habits of journalists and scientists.

Despite differences in orientation, journalists and scientists actually use many of the same tools, Becker said. "Scientists and journalists can work together to make the news more meaningful to those who consume and need it--the citizenry of the countries we live in."

Dr. William Griswold, a member of the faculty of the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, said environmental journalists should work to:
-create an awareness that there are environmental problems;
-provide enough information for individuals to alter their behavior;
-legitimize collective decision-making to solve environmental problems, and
-widen the range of organizations and institutions that are viewed as appropriate actors in decision-making about the environment and, consequently, used as sources for stories.

"Scientists have not been able to transmit their concerns to the public," Dr. Hugo Romero, Professor, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile, told the workshop participants. "Something is not working correctly in our society. We do not have sustainable development. Journalists can have an important role on this topic."

The four scientists- Ferrando, Messerli, Hamilton and Romero- were invited from among those attending the Symposium on Sustainable Mountain Development to highlight concerns of the scientific community. Cox Center Director Becker led a discussion following each presentation to get responses from journalists and others present in the audience.

Griswold directed the final session of the workshop in which he challenged the scientists and journalists to find ways to work more closely together.

The workshop was sponsored by the Cox Center and Centro International de Estudios Superiores de Communicacion para America Latina (CIESPAL), headquartered in Quito. The Cox Center subsidized the costs of the three working journalists and four students who attended the workshop. The Center also subsidized the costs of the journalists in the workshop who wished to remain at the symposium for its duration.

All those attending the symposium were encouraged to attend the workshop. Click here to see the conference program.