Monday, 26 January 2009

How do we involve the mass media in public dialogue?

We're often asked to generate press coverage of public engagement/dialogue activities, to help recruit participants to the events, to encourage people to take part in an online debate or to share the findings of the engagement.

While we've had great success in attracting the attention of local and regional press, the national media have been particularly difficult to engage. Getting them to cover the findings is reasonably straightforward - the news value is clear isn't it? But asking them to play a role in the democratic process (i.e. providng the information and signposting to enable citizens to take part) seems almost impossible. We've tried all the tricks in the book - linking it to a scientific breakthrough, offering great speakers for interview, getting scientists and politicians to make controversial statemements, to name but a few.

This, coupled with the declining readership of mainstream media, is leading us to think that we're wasting our time and should focus on online outlets.

But, before we abandon the old completely, I want to ask whether we are alone in this? Do any of you have examples where you have successfully attracted traditional national media coverage that has enabled people to take part in a public debate or dialogue and how did you do it? Do any science journalists have any suggestions that might help us?

1 comment:

  1. People are shy to comment -one that I've been emailed:

    "Will journalists ever be interested in public dialogue activities?
    Not unless it directly relates to a news story that is in the news that day such as MMR and Autism (at that time). I think that we as Science Communicators by trying to not to underestimate our audience and so not be patronising over estimate the science knowledge of those who work in the general media. It is these we have to reach if we want the message to get across to a large audience rather than just the science journalists. "