1 Comment »Posted on Thursday 2 July 2009 at 11:15 pm by Jacob Aron
In Happenings

It’s over! Whilst tomorrow will see many of the delegates going on a variety of trips, today was effectively the end of the WCSJ. It’s certainly been an interesting week, and today was no exception.

I began this morning with a session on the future of science journalism. Hosted by Robert Lee Hotz, science columnist for the Wall Street Journal, it was probably the highlight of the week for me. Discussing the issues were Laura Chang, science editor for the New York Times, editor of The Times James Harding, former editor-in-chief of Scientific American John Rennie, and Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of newsgathering.

Common themes were that the current problems of science journalism are shared by general journalism and the wider media. The combination of the internet and falling advertising revenues will bring about a “mass extinction” of media outlets, according to Rennie. Those that want to survive need to evolve.

Chang told us about the NYT’s efforts to become an information portal in addition to a news source. Information about health forms a big part of this, and page views for the NYT website Health section have tripled as a result.

It’s not just health that gets the hits however. Both Chang and Unsworth mentioned the Large Hadron Collider as a massive science story – indeed, the BBC’s coverage received so many views that their stats counter broke!

Whilst this is all good to hear, it’s unclear how it makes any money. Of course, as Unsworth pointed out the BBC don’t need to worry about this, but everyone else must come up with new business models. No one had any real answers – if they did they would be implementing them – so the future of science journalism still remains uncertain. Even so, it was great to see such excellent speakers speculating on what might happen.

After this it was back to the book stall for a bit before I went to steward a session on the coverage of climate change and it links science, policy and politics. Again, because I was working I couldn’t make very good notes. One of the speakers was Richard Black, environment correspondent for the BBC, who made a very good point about the real environmental story: us.

The growth of the world’s population leads to an increase in resource use and more and more expansion in to natural habitats. Climate change and other problems can be linked directly to this issue, but we rarely see articles calling for a slowdown in growth.

Next was my final stint on the book stand. Everything was reduced to £1 and I managed to shift all of the books, though eventually we did end up giving the last few away for free. These rather unpopular volumes still took a while to get rid of, despite not costing a penny!

The last event of the conference was the farewell party. For some unknown reason this was Wimbeldon themed, which meant us stewards had to change from our garish orange polo necks to white ones, and don a tennis visor. Slightly silly, but I guess that’s just how these things work.

I’ve had a great week. It’s been hard work, but good fun, and I got to witness and take part in many thought-provoking discussions. My whole body aches, I’m extremely sleep-deprived, but I’d definitely do it all again. The next conference is to be held in 2011 and hosted by Cairo. I’ve no idea what I’ll be doing then, but I hope I can attend!


  1. One Comment

  2. Tks for the coverage Jacob. Followed all of those.

    So population and growth got a look-in; good.

    By Tim Jones on Friday 3 July, 2009 at 2:04 am

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