A two-day conference on science journalism in the Arab world concluded on Monday with a call for more cooperation between public and private universities a generation of journalists capable of covering major global issues like climate change and health emergencies.
The Arab Network for Scientific Journalism organised the conference, titled “Arab Science Journalism in the Age of Digital Media”, which was held at the Future University in Egypt, in Cairo. Al-Fanar Media was a media sponsor of the event.
Experts and journalists took part in the conference’s sessions, which touched on topics including Arab science journalism in the digital age, Arab universities’ adoption of science journalism curricula, the development of health journalism after the Covid-19 pandemic, government and media initiatives to address climate change, and the journalism of environmental solutions.
The conference also reviewed successful science journalism models, recent writing trends in media coverage of scientific issues, the future of science journalism in light of technological progress, and what should be known about the COP27 climate-change summit, which Egypt will host in November.
It also discussed the current climate challenges amid an international health crisis, and the reality of scientific research in the Arab world, in addition to exchanging views about ways to develop science journalism in the Arab world.
Science Journalists’ Skills
In a panel attended by students and journalists, Mohamed El-Hawary, editor-in-chief of Al-Fanar Media, said discussions of science journalism should start by asking questions such as who science journalists are, what are their skills, and what are the standards that qualify them?
“We are facing a global skills crisis, and journalists are not far from this. We always need to help them to constantly upskill and develop their abilities.”Mohamed El-Hawary, Editor-in-chief of Al-Fanar Media
“Arab science journalism needs journalists with superior skills who adhere to professional ethics,” he said. “We also need to increase media awareness among scientists to create links between journalists, scientists and scientific institutions.”
El-Hawary explained that this profession requires journalists to always take into account the creation of meaning, an essential part of the content industry.
“More specifically, when we address something as important as science journalism, we must be in full awareness of our role as science journalists,” he said. “There is a lack of complementarity between media institutions, journalist training organisations, and research centers and institutions.”
Content Industry Challenges
In a session titled “The Future of Science Journalism in Light of Technological Progress”, El-Hawary talked about a global crisis in skills-building. “We are facing a global skills crisis, and journalists are not far from this,” he said. “We always need to help them to constantly upskill and develop their abilities.”
For instance, he cited the need to learn fact-checking skills, data processing and analysis, in addition to the great role of modern technology in supporting science journalism, which opens new horizons for presenting scientific content.
“In fact, we are now in front of an audience we do not know, presenting to them content that we do not understand,” he said. “This is the case with many media outlets now, and we must strongly confront that.”
He also called for studying the audience, and employing all available technological means and tools, to provide diverse content that can keep pace with what the audience needs.
The conference concluded with a set of recommendations that emphasised the need for cooperation between public and private universities in training journalists capable of covering global scientific events like COP27, developing a science journalism vision in curricula, and training journalists on creating scientific content.
Participants noted that COP27, which starts on November 7, presents an opportunity to highlight Egypt’s efforts to transform Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city that meets environmental quality standards.
The conference also called on media institutions to provide more science journalism content and to restructure medical television programmes to meet the professional standards of science journalism.
The conference called for establishing a conscious generation of science journalists who are able to provide accurate information about the impact of climate change on the environment and public health in plain, simple language that ordinary people can understand.
Other recommendations called for creating an atmosphere of effective communication between Arab media professionals, researchers and academics on preparing specialised scientific journalists to keep pace with climate change developments, keeping in mind the ethical and social dimensions of the phenomenon and the resulting environmental disasters and crises.
Conference speakers also called for paying more attention to the “blue economy”, which is concerned with protecting the oceans and marine life, and not just “green economy” issues like the transition to low-carbon, efficient and clean energy sources.
A Culture of Youth Volunteers
Conference participants also called for promoting a culture of volunteer work among young peopleby involving them in addressing environmental problems and engaging them with decision-makers.
They suggested launching online platforms specialised in environmental issues and problems, opening dialogues about these issues and offering practical solutions and alternatives.
Participants also recommended that media organisations should optimise the use of social media in presenting scientific news stories in language that is easy to understand, to build sympathy for environmental issues, support efforts to reach a unified vision, and put pressure on wealthy countries fulfill their commitments to help poorer countries finance projects to mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change.
In conclusion, the conference called for increasing awareness of climate issues through schools, universities, and local councils, and for establishing a conscious generation of science journalists who are able to provide accurate information about the impact of climate change on the environment and public health in plain, simple language that ordinary people can understand.
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To read more about sustainable development challenges in the Arab world and the COP27 climate-change conference, see Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on these issues.