Become a storyteller (for science)

I had the pleasure of attending the Walkley Foundation’s Freelance Focus conference this week with support from the ASC and the UQ School of Journalism and Communication. It was a busy day, full of inspiring content that ranged from Noah Rosenberg (founder and CEO of Narratively) talking on fostering audiences and narrative, to Nathan Burman (comms guy for Twitter Australia) running a masterclass focused on best practice for the social medium.

Running  through the entire conference was the  theme of storytelling. It was a theme that seems particularly relevant to ASC given spreading science stories is a large part of what we do. So, here are five take home points that might just help you the next time you’re crafting a science story. Read along for the who, what, when, where, and why.

Who is your audience?

Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), imagine your audience. Who is best suited to your tale of the impact of gravity on quantum weirdness?

Your audience shouldn’t just help you to manage the complexity of your language, it should also shape the mediums you choose to convey your story through.

What medium will you use to tell your story?

It might seem easiest to write a press release and hit send, but is that the most effective way of getting your story out there? Would a podcast be more accessible to your audience, would it make your story come alive? Choose a medium that embraces the key elements of your story – whether that be a soundbite, long-form article or ten-second GIF.

When should your story end?

Your story doesn’t need to be a one hour documentary to have impact. Think carefully about the ideal length of your work and be realistic about resourcing. It’s a cliché that rings true – sometimes less is more.

Where is the person in your story?

Personal tales make dry, complex information come alive. Whose experiences can you tap into to give warmth to your piece? Use their story to bring the unique and remarkable aspects of your story to light.

Why should people read your story?

Cultivating a community around your story will help increase its impact once published. Identify the people around you who will be interested and happy to share your tale with others.





Journos get confident with data with new online training


Lyndal Byford Media Manager Australian Science Media Centre

Lyndal Byford Media Manager Australian Science Media Centre

Some of our nation’s top science journalists and communicators have produced a new online resource to support journalists reporting on complicated scientific issues.

The open-access website called SciJourno ( has been developed to help all journalists and journalism students with their day-to-day science news gathering. It is not just for those on the science round.

When science hits the headlines, whether it’s climate change, vaccination or coal seam gas, journalists increasingly have to get their heads around complicated scientific concepts with few resources and under stringent time pressures.

Liz Minchin, Queensland Editor of and former environment reporter for The Age, said job cuts in the media mean fewer specialist reporters.

“General news reporters are increasingly asked to cover incredibly complex topics, on everything from what causes bushfires, to how the National Broadband Network works,” Ms Minchin said.

“Journalists need to know where to find good experts, what to ask, and how to best communicate what they find out, including through social media. And we also need scientists and technology experts to be able to explain their work and why it matters in clear, plain English.

“There’s a huge public appetite for science stories; the challenge for everyone is to tell those stories well.”

Funded by The Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia programme, it is hoped that SciJourno will be used by working journalists, needing to brush up on their science knowledge as well as post- and undergraduate journalism students and lecturers/teachers of journalism courses.

The topics covered range from what makes a reliable scientific source, through to working with big numbers and data, and what to do when science gets politicised. The six units include videos, practical exercises, tips/tools, links and resource lists.

Contributors to Scijourno include:

  • Paul Willis, Director of the Royal Institute of Australia (and previously a reporter with Catalyst on ABC)
  • Mark Suleau, recently retired from Channel 10 after more than 40 years as a journalist
  • Liz Minchin, currently Queensland editor of The Conversation
  • Graham Readfearn, independent journalist and blogger
  • Natalie Bochenski, a senior Brisbane journalist currently working with Queensland Times.

For media interviews or more information

Dr. Joan Leach, Senior Lecturer in Rhetoric and Science Communication
The University of Queensland, Brisbane
07 3365 3196

Jenni Metcalfe, Director
Econnect Communication, Brisbane
07 3846 7111, 0408 551 866

Lyndal Byford, Media Manager
Australian Science Media Centre, Adelaide
08 7120 8666

Scijourno was a collaborative project between The University of Queensland, AusSMC (Australian Science Media Centre), Econnect Communication, and with advice from the University of Western Australia