World Federation of Science Journalists

Deadline for African and Middle East science reporters


July 19, 2006

NEWS RELEASE


Deadlines loom for African and Middle East science reporters

Munich 19 July 2006

Science journalists from Africa and the Middle East including health, environmental, technology and medical reporters - have only a few days left in which to enrol in an innovative skills-building scheme.

A group of 20 experienced science journalists from around the world (including television, radio, print and internet) have just concluded a week of mentoring training in Munich, Germany.

They are a key part of the new project, run by the World Federation of Science Journalists, which links nearly 30 science reporting organisations around the globe. The mentoring programme aims to improve the quality and the quantity of science reporting in the developing world, and to improve recognition in the newsroom that science is a critically important part of the news mix.

For two years, the mentors will partner 60 writers already covering science and technology in Africa and Middle East, whether as freelancers, fulltime journalists or in some cases, scientists who write regularly for the media. But a deadline looms: applications with three examples of published articles or broadcast tapes must be received by the end of the month (August 15).

"Often workshops don't look back, said Akin Jimoh, a Nigerian journalist selected as a mentor. They fly in. They fly out. But this is continuous and builds into other things such as national associations."

Science journalists, often isolated from colleagues and sometimes even from scientists who fear the media, have developed a tradition of helping each other through their own associations or through informal, personal support. The WFSJ mentoring scheme extends this tradition of collaboration at an international level for the first time.

"The key advantage of the program is that the mentoring is not a one-off workshop," said Wilson da Silva, the President of the World Federation of Science Journalists, "The regular support from a mentor, plus yearly face-to-face meeting between mentors and mentored, will break the isolation of the few journalists who are dedicating themselves to the coverage of complex issues in Africa and the Middle East."

Mr. da Silva, editor of the popular Australian science magazine, Cosmos, added: "The two-year mentoring will complement the two or three-day workshops that are often organised on specific topics." He said that the World Federation of Science Journalists will extend the mentoring of individual journalists to the twinning of associations. Associations in Africa (several have already formed in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon, with more in the pipeline) could be twinned with a long-established sister organisation in Europe or North America.

The 20 experienced science journalists in the Munich training workshop have jointly accumulated more than 300 years of accumulated experience in science journalism, establishing science beats, and creating associations. They come from Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, South and North America as well as Europe.

Dr. Kathryn O'Hara, who holds the Chair in Science Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, structured the Munich session. "Thinking like a mentor is not necessarily the same as thinking like a journalist," she explained. "There is a huge wealth of expertise in this group."

The session was organized in collaboration with Technisch-Literarische Gesellschaft (TELI) and the Wissenschafts-Pressekonferenz (WPK), the two German science journalist associations. Regional co-ordinators are Diran Onifade, a Nigerian television reporter, for English-speaking Africa; Nadia el-Awady, science editor of the Cairo-based Islam Online internet service for the Arabic-speaking world, and science journalism professor Gervais Mbarga of the University of Yaounde in Cameroon for Francophone Africa.

The mentoring scheme is funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DfID).

Please, visit the World Federation of Science Journalists website for more information: www.wfsj.org or contact info@wfsj.org