You ask the questions… turning the tables on the media on 27 June.

·         Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in a newsroom?

·         Who decides what stories to cover and when?

·         Where do science stories fit in?

·         And how do you get your research in the news?

Join us on Monday 27 June to find out as the Australian Science Communicators, Royal Society of Victoria, and Science in Public team up to introduce you to our local Melbourne science (and science-interested) journalists.

We’ll bring together a panel of working journalists from print, TV, and radio to tell us about what they do, and what they look for in a story. 

The panel will give you an introduction to the needs and challenges of TV news, radio, and the daily press.

We’ll kick off with a few questions like:

·         What turns science into news for them and their audiences

·         What they need to tell your story

·         How you can help them engage their audience and stay true to the science.

Then you can turn the tables and ask them your questions.

This event is FREE, but you’ll need to reserve your place via Eventbrite.
: Monday 27 June – nibbles and networking from 6pm, forum to start at 6.30pm

: Royal Society of Victoria, 8 La Trobe St, Melbourne
Register at

#ASC14 interview booth – FAQs about the mainstream media

Thank you to Michelle Wheeler for sharing her answers to these FAQs with us.

As anyone who attended the ASC Conference in Brisbane this year knows, there was an awful lot going on. So much so, that even as you grabbed a quick coffee or bite to eat during the breaks, you may have noticed science journalist Michelle Wheeler still hard at work in the ‘Interview Booth’.

This new component was designed to give ASC’ers a chance to sit down with a working science journalist, to discuss ideas they might have for a story, get advice on media releases or simply to ask questions and gain some insight into what today’s journalists are up against when it comes to getting a science story out there.

For those who missed out, here are Michelle’s answers to some of the more frequently asked questions at the booth.

What is a typical day like in a newspaper newsroom?

A day in a newsroom can vary a lot depending on the organisation, the day of the week and whether there is late-breaking news, but here’s an example from one newspaper.

Most journalists arrive between 8am and 10am and immediately start ringing contacts, going through emails and generally checking to see what stories might be around that day. Before 10.30am, journalists brief the chief of staff on what is happening in their round and pitch the stories they are planning to focus on. The chief of staff will give some basic direction on which stories they think should be followed up, how long they should be and whether photographs are needed, and may give journalists stories they have come up with as well.

At 11am the chief of staff goes into a morning news conference with the senior editors to discuss the stories journalists are pursuing that day. The section editors, such as the sport, world and business editors, all report on the main stories they are looking at that day and the editor of the paper will add a few stories he would like looked at as well.

About 2.30pm journalists are required to send “newslist messages” to the chief of staff for each of the stories they are working on for the next day’s paper. These notes contain a mock first sentence for the story and the key points as well as the author, length and whether there are any photographs or graphics to accompany the article. These messages are taken into an afternoon news conference where the editor plans out which stories will go on which pages. This finishes about 4pm, at which point the chief of staff often gives final directions to the journalists about their stories.

The absolute latest a journalist would generally be able to file a story and still make the first edition of the paper is about 7pm, with the earliest copies being printed by 7.30pm.  There are later deadlines throughout the night for different editions of the paper to allow for late-breaking news. At any point during the day almost everything planned can go out the window if a huge story breaks.

When is the best time to send a media release?

The best time for most reporters to receive a media release is first thing in the morning, when journalists are calling contacts and looking at what is happening that day. If the release is sent out late in the day it has to be good enough to replace something else for the story to be written because by the next day it is often considered old news.


Should I call journalists to follow up if they haven’t responded to an email release?

This is a point of contention among both journalists and PR professionals and there are going to be plenty of people who disagree with me. As a journalist it is very annoying to constantly receive cold calls from PR officers you don’t know asking why you didn’t call them about a media release for an event totally unrelated to the round you cover. For some reason people organising charity luncheons are particularly bad at this.

On the other hand, it’s great to get calls from media managers you know or have worked with on stories before. Sometimes it’s handy to be able to chat about different angles for new research and even if I know a story isn’t going to run I’ll often ask the media manager about other stories coming up in the future (such as upcoming research or papers and reports due to be published) that I have in my diary.

Be polite – ask if there’s any extra information the journalist needs rather than demanding an explanation for why a story hasn’t been picked up. Don’t call on deadline and don’t get disheartened if journalists don’t always have time to chat.

Should I worry about pictures?

Yes! A fantastic photograph can easily bump a story from page 15 of a newspaper to page three, get it featured online or determine whether the story runs at all. Pictures are particularly important for newspapers in tabloid (compact) format, which the vast majority of major papers in the country now are.

Newspapers will generally choose to take their own photographs if they can but that doesn’t mean they won’t run supplied images occasionally if they are particularly good or of something they couldn’t usually capture themselves. For television it’s worth mentioning any vision opportunities or scientific visualisations you have in the release.

Scientists to get “Savvy” with the Media

By Ian McDonald 

Want advice on how to interact with the media? is a website dedicated to training scientists on such issues. With scientific research relying heavily on both private and public funding, this website will be a major tool in increasing scientist’s awareness of how to interact positively with the media.

The Science Media Centre (SMC) launched the website at the CSIRO Discovery Centre on Thursday the 1st of November. The event, co-sponsored by Inspiring Australia, introduced the 1st module of the website designed to help scientists work with media. Robyn Williams, ABC Radio Science Broadcaster, lead the event and said the website will be a tremendous aid to all scientists. CSIRO funded the first module of this website, being an organisation in Australia who rely heavily on emerging relationships with the media and getting their research into the public domain. The SMC are now working on a second module to inform scientists on how to effectively use social media as a communication tool and a third module which will focus on particular hot research topics.

George Negus, Journalist and TV presenter, was a notable speaker at the event who said that hardly a minute goes by where science isn’t used in our existence; however the biggest issue is that the media tends to stay away. He goes on to say that while scientists don’t like to dumb things down, using jargon is a big turn off for the media and using simple language is much more enticing to both them and the public. A message that can sometimes fall on deaf ears when dealing with high profile scientists who don’t like the idea of “dumbing down” their research.

Susannah Elliot, head of SMC, said the site is dedicated to these types of scientists and has tips from those who have had experience working with the media including Laureate Professor Peter Doherty who went to instant fame when winning a Nobel Prize in 1996. As well as tips “from the other side” including George Negus, Robyn Williams and Emily Rice. It is a series of short videos and is designed to build on knowledge developed in courses. It is particularly useful for those wanting to refresh their media skills before an event or interview. It was a general consensus at the launch that the website will be a tremendous aid to scientists in all fields and everyone is looking forward to the second and third modules to be released at a later date.

ASCSA media training workshop 6 Sept- Adelaide

6 September 2010
6:00 pmto9:00 pm

Australian Science Communicators SA Event ASCSA media training workshop With Rob Morrison Date: Monday 6 September Time: 6pm-9pm Venue: RiAus Main Auditorium The Science Exchange Exchange Place Adelaide Bookings: at Cost: Free to ASCSA members, non-members $40, Students $25. Payment at the door please. Workshop limited to 40 people.

What may be very important in science may still not be considered newsworthy by the media. The media have their own priorities, and it can be difficult to get media coverage for stories about scientific issues that are important but complex, or threatening, or lacking in visual possibilities, or are not in tune with journalistic misconceptions. A science story is often just not eye-catching enough to make past an editor amongst a mountain of “more” newsworthy stories. So a different approach is needed. This workshop will introduce critical issues in the preparation of a science research story for the media, whether it be a media release or a radio or TV interview. You will get to write, practice and discuss how this can be done, with Rob Morrison, one of the most experienced science communicators in Australia. He has 40 years of experience under his belt as a TV and radio broadcaster, 34 science and natural history books, with 13 more co-authored, and dozens of articles He has also won many national and international awards, including two Eureka Prizes, one being the Australian Government Eureka Prize for the Promotion of Science, the Michael Daley Award for Science Journalism, and the inaugural SA South Australian Government award for Excellence in Science Communication. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of Australia for Science Communication and Conservation. Who better to cover such ground? Please email if you need further information. You will be sent the workshop agenda on registration. _______________________________________________ ASC-list mailing list