World Federation of Science Journalists

Tribute to Christina Scott RIP


October 31, 2011

Hamba Khale, Christina

Christina Scott, South Africa’s premier radio and TV science journalist has died tragically in a motor car accident, aged 49. A champion of science journalism, a science communicator, editor, author, mentor, trainer, devoted mother and much admired and loved colleague, she died while doing what she did best, helping others. Christina was giving driving lessons and was just shy of her 50th birthday.

“Short, stroppy reporter with a funny accent. Likes to eat sushi. No head for alcohol and caffeine addiction” is how Canadian-born Christina chose to introduce herself when applying to join an online science network. Her sense of humour, warmth, intelligence, wackiness and ability to cut through the jargon made her a brilliant science journalist, ensuring her a place in many hearts.

From 1994 to 2004 Christina was science editor at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for both TV and radio. At the time of her death she was presenter of the popular weekly Science Matters programme on SAFM and managing editor of Research Africa. A woman of substance, she was widely read making her an incisive interviewer, always getting to the core of the matter but in an engaging and friendly manner. Whether she was talking to an astrophysicist about space or a zoologist about velvet worms she was able to make all scientists feel at ease, getting the best from them. One scientist recalls that being interviewed by her was “like being part of a dinner conversation. You would seamlessly go into the interview without realising that the mike was live and you were on air. That is the way it should be”.

What she lacked in height, she made up for in irrepressible energy and her passion for spreading the word of science into every home in South Africa and Africa from shacks to mansions, made her a foremost science communicator and science advocate.

She was concerned about the lack of science literacy in Africa and the impact this had on ordinary people. Consequently, she reached out to young science journalists, either in print or broadcast, taking them under her wing, encouraging and mentoring them. Christina was an active member of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) and mentored African science journalists under the federation’s first SjCOOP between 2006 and 2009. Always leading from behind and with generosity of spirit, she wondered whether “she was mentoring reporters in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria” or whether it was the “other way round and they were mentoring me”.

As Sub-Saharan editor for the online science news and feature service SciDev.Net , her influence rippled across Africa and internationally. She wanted the voice of women scientists heard loud and clear. Outspoken and driven, she complained of constantly being dished up “white male” scientists to interview. She gave women scientists in Africa a platform.

Christina was the founding vice-president of the SA Science Journalism Association and its second president, and it was her wish and motivation that South African editors be lobbied to cover more science stories. She was on the advisory committee of Scifest and chaired several sessions at science conferences, notably the recent 6th Science World Congress in Cape Town. She also attended the recent Science Journalism conference in Doha giving of her experience and expertise.

Once when asked what languages she spoke, she answered in her inimitable style: English, some French, ngi khuluma isiZulu en 'n bietjie Afrikaans - warm and witty but also an insight into her ability to embody the different cultures in SA and her own heritage. Ever respectful, she made a point of greeting people in their own language.

By nature, Christina was an activist and started journalism in South Africa tackling the apartheid government and police and “when there was no one left to fight” she turned her attention to science, a topic she loved and on which she has left an indelible mark.

Christina never gave up on her convictions and therefore it was no surprise, to see her dressed in red, joining the anti-Secrecy Bill march in Cape Town to ensure South Africa’s hard won struggle for a free media remains intact.Once when she arrived at a media event, while working for SABC, she went over to the registration desk to get her name tag. “I’m Christina Scott,” she said. The man behind the table replied, having only ever heard her on radio, “No, you’re not Christina Scott. Christina Scott’s tall!”
She will remain a giant in our hearts.

She leaves her three children Nozipho 19, Alexandra 13, and Benjamin 9.

Farewell

Hamba Khale

Christina

Her achievement include:

Christina holds a degree in English literature from the University of Alberta and a Masters degree in media studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

She authored the book: Nelson Mandela: A force for freedom.

Christina won many awards including the 2007 TWAS prize for public understanding and popularising science.

In 2005 she was co-winner of the reporting microfinance award from the Inter Press Service news agency and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

In 2000 she was awarded a Jack E. Scripps science journalism fellowship from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA and in 1999 she won the CSIR science and technology award for radio.
 



Christina Scott: Africa's foremost science journalist dies.

Acclaimed South African science journalist, Christina Scott has died in a tragic auto accident in Capetown, South Africa.

Until her unfortunate death on October 31st 2011, Christina was the managing editor at Research Africa, Cape Town, South Africa. She was a stalwart of African science journalism, an author, broadcaster and journalist of repute. Christina hosted the weekly Science Matters programme on South Africa’s main national English-language station, SAfm.

She was the President of the South Africa Science Journalists Association (SASJA) between 2009 and 2010 and a strong force in the African Federation of Science Journalists. She was previously the Sub-Saharan editor for SciDev.Net between 2007 and 2009 and between 1994 and 2004 was the science editor at the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation.

She was an active member of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) where she mentored a crop of African science journalists under the Federation’s first SjCOOP between 2006 and 2009.

Reacting to the sad news, Nigeria’s Diran Onifade, president of the African Federation of Science Journalists said: “I haven’t heard anything this horrible in a long while. Christina (Get-On-The-Bus) Scott was too energetic to be imagined lifeless. Even in our grief, let’s not forget that she was THE foremost African science journalist and we should honour her memory as such.”

Kenyan journalist Kimani Chege, a former mentee of Christina’s said: “You really mentored me well..Science journalism is nothing without you. RIP great friend and teacher.”

Christina holds a degree in English literature from the University of Alberta and a Masters degree in media studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

She authored the book: Nelson Mandela: A force for freedom.

Christina Scott won many awards during her life time and this include the 2007 TWAS prize for public understanding and popularizing science. In 2005 she was co-winner of the reporting microfinance award from the Inter Press Service news agency and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. In 2000 she was awarded a Jack E. Scripps science journalism fellowship from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA and in 1999 she won the CSIR science and technology award for radio.

She’s survived by 3 children and aged mother.

Article first published on AfricaSTI: Christina Scott: Africa’s foremost science journalist dies.