Journalists under pressure

April 19, 2012

Luisa Massarani

Luisa Massarani
Latin America regional coordinator, SciDev.Net

The wide use of the internet has brought unquestionable new benefits to journalists. Discussing the challenges of science journalism at PCST today, Suzanne de Cheveigné, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, highlighted that it also puts journalists increasingly under pressure.

“Editors are putting too much pressure on journalists in terms of reducing the time [it takes to write stories],” de Cheveigné said, referring to a qualitative study she has carried out with environment journalists.

I am not myself a environment journalist (and prefer to refer to myself as science journalist) but I can understand very well this feeling.  Actually, I can visualise the face of my editor in London, waiting for posts for this blog, while I attend several sessions, chair a few of them and do a couple of presentations myself. It’s very cool, but also feels like too much pressure sometimes.

According to de Cheveigné, the avalanche of emails journalists receive is another example of journalists being overwhelmed in the internet age.

“It is actually impossible to open all of them,” she said.

Another study among environment journalists carried out by Ana Claudia Nepote, at the Autonomous National University in Mexico, brought further information about the pressures on the profession.

The study is based on a questionnaire survey distributed electronically to journalists, 38 of whom responded.

Ana Claudia observed that respondents were concentrated in the capital, Mexico City, or in Veracruz, where there is a masters course on environment journalism.

“We had no answers from the northeast, [where there is] a lot of economical development activity, or southern areas such as Chiapas and Oaxaca, which are very rich cultural and biological regions,” she said regretfully.

“Our results indicate that there is a lack of projects such as community radio and other strategies to engage local communities.”

Nepote also called for greater efforts to strengthen press offices at universities, research centres and government agencies such as the National Council of Science and Technology.

“We need to push the press officers, since they are facilitator agents between science and the public,” she said.

This blog post is part of our Public Communication of Science & Technology (PCST2012) conference coverage.

Better support needed for Africa e-health solutions

April 2, 2012


Maina Waruru
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net

While mobile phones use has expanded at an astonishing rate in Africa, this on its own is insufficient to bring so-called E-health solutions to the millions of people living in remote, poor rural areas.

Cellphone use must be complemented by other relevant technologies, infrastructure and applications that will ensure the cost of accessing health ICT is made cheaper and cost effective, the first African conference on Science Technology and Innovation for Youth Employment, Human Capital Development and Inclusive Growth was told on Monday.

“We must never over-rely on mobile phones alone as a means of delivering E-health, and must move to other technologies such telemedicine and video conferencing — which could be a bit expensive, but whose cost can be brought down if we start manufacturing of the requisite devices here in Africa,” said Robert  Jalang’o of the Multimedia University College of Kenya.

Mobile phone use has expanded enormously in Africa

Mobile phone use has expanded enormously in Africa, but the conference heard other technologies and infrastructure is needed to roll out e-health solutions to all the continent's peoples.

Mr Jalang’o addressed a session on E-health at the conference, which is underway in Nairobi, saying that the high cost of foreign technologies must be brought down if ICT use in the sector is to be fully realised. This, he said, needed to involve undergraduate and post-graduate students  in producing these technologies, which he added would not only give them specialist knowledge, but provide them with jobs as well.

Speakers at the session noted that back-up infrastructure — such as transmission masts and solar power facilities to power the stations and handsets —  must also be in place to serve people living in the most remote regions of the continent.

While it was agreed that mobile phones should not be over-relied on to deliver health solutions, there was a consensus at the session that these gadgets will be the most popular option to deliver E-health in rural Africa into the foreseeable future.

As a result, the participants said, there is a need to make addressing the challenges relating to access a priority at all levels — not just for policymakers.

“Let’s teach our people  how they can develop content for e-health even at grassroots level as well, so that through using [mobile] phones they can share their expertise in fields such as indigenous health knowledge,” Muhammadou Kah, vice-chancellor of the University of the Gambia, told the session.

He said involvement in generating content for e-health solutions should engage people at village level, noting that locally-produced content would be the most relevant in addressing local health needs.

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