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.

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