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Science Seminar for News Editors
Science Beyond Politics

April 24-25, 2003

Sponsored by Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting
and The Providence Journal

The Providence Journal Building
Providence, Rhode Island


Reception and Introductions


Balanced News Reporting: A Challenge for Science and Journalism
Dr. Margaret Leinen, Assistant Director for Geosciences, National Science Foundation
Science news often demands clarification. The press traditionally explains issues by presenting both sides as equally held and equally likely. With complex scientific stories, this approach can be misleading, inaccurate and may not serve the news audience. How can editors help their staff explain important science stories when sources are just as likely to represent an organization or philosophy as they are to present scientific truth? Leinen talks about these issues and the future of American environmental research, where it has succeeded, and where more work needs to be done.

FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2003

Welcome and Introductions

Jackleen de La Harpe, Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting
Howard Sutton, The Providence Journal
Joel Rawson, The Providence Journal<>


Constituency of Ignorance
Cornelia Dean, The New York Times
No wonder scientists complain that Americans are ignorant about science. Sources of science news spin it, reporters misinterpret it and the public doesn't get it. Why does this situation exist and how can it be fixed?


Environmental Reporting: Distinguishing Opinion from Fact
Eric Schaeffer, The Environmental Integrity Project, Rockefeller Family Fund
Reporters covering the environment often dutifully record the sound bites of the various antagonists - government or industry and environmental lobbyists - without determining the truth of what they are reporting. How can editors provide their news audiences with more meaningful information?


Brayton Point: Explaining Complex Stories for Your Readers
Bud Ward, Environment Writer, moderator; Monica Allen, The Standard Times; Daniel MacDonald, Mt. Hope Bay Laboratory; Tom Powers, PG&E National Energy Group; Eric Schaeffer, The Environmental Integrity Project
Brayton Point, a coal-fired power plant in southeastern Massachusetts, exemplifies the difficulty of covering complex, science-based stories - conflicting science, regional energy needs, federal regulations, human health - what is the story? Panelists representing scientific, advocacy, and industry interests discuss the issues and talk about how editors can provide guidance to their staff in covering stories like these, what pitfalls to avoid, what readers need to know, and what makes an issue like Brayton Point a page-one story.

Walking Tour

Urban Waters: The Dirty Business of Revitalization
Rick Greenwood, RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission; Mark Van Noppen, The Armory Revival Company; and Sandra Whitehouse, Environmental Consultant, lead a walk along the Woonasquatucket River in Providence.


Climate Change: Drama Camouflaged as Science
Ross Gelbspan, Journalist and Author
What are the current and potential impacts of climate change? Gelbspan details the successful campaign of disinformation by the fossil fuel lobby, which has confounded coverage of the issue by the mainstream press and put the U.S. a decade behind most of the rest of the world in addressing this issue.

Roundtable Discussion

Editors Roundtable: News in the Near Future
Editors will have an opportunity to compare notes on science news coverage.

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December 4, 2007