Getting it right when journalists report science

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A new report from WAN-Ifra's World Editors Forum written by Fergus Bell offers ideas on improving reporting of health, science and consumer affairs.

Ahead of next year's focus on the challenge, verification expert and journalist trainer Bell took a group of science reporters through a workshop, unpacking the problems and mapping out possible solutions.

The result is the Science in the Newsroom report, which will be a "must read" for those looking to improve reporting and newsroom processes on the subjects.

WEF executive director Cherilyn Ireton says the fightback on disinformation and fraud must go beyond political information, "to all that we publish - including high traffic, shareable stories that affect readers and the way they choose to live their lives.

"I am talking about matters of health, science and consumer affairs where close attention to verification of facts is often absent, particularly in newsrooms that have had to pare back specialist skills.

"Where specialist skills are present, tension often arises between the information the specialist publishes and what might find its way into the public domain when their back is turned."

The WEF's Science in the Newsroom project aims to identify points of pain faced by newsrooms in covering these issues accurately, and to come up with solutions that will help strengthen the quality of reporting. "Using co-design methodology, we were able to fully map out existing processes in the reporting of science and consumer affairs stories," says Ireton. "This then allowed us to identify both the challenges and opportunities for improvement in these fields. By publishing this design process, it is hoped that reporters might benefit from the expert discussions and perhaps build on their own initiatives to make significant developments, improvements, and progress in this space.

The Science in the Newsroom report is free and can be downloaded here.

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