By far the most informative session I attended today was “Rising Waters: How to Cover an Environmental Threat.” Environmental reporting is something that I’m interested in but know little about, so when I saw it on the schedule today, I felt motivated to learn something new.
Bob Marshall, the speaker at this session has been covering the rising sea levels in Louisiana for years. He spoke a lot about the scientific reasons for this change in sea level, what it means for New Orleans and how he goes about reporting it.
Interviewing scientists is a daunting task, even for someone with years of experience. Marshall gave a few tips about how to interview someone about a complicated and technical subject without feeling overwhelmed.
- Get the facts.
- Ask scientists to explain things in laymen’s terms or to paraphrase.
- If the story deals with a scientific study or a survey, contact the people in charge.
- Graphics speak louder than words.
- Don’t leave the interview with unanswered questions.
- Preventative journalism is better than forensic journalism (Make people care about environmental issues now instead of 20 years from now).
The most important thing I took away from this session is that when covering an environmental threat, it’s a journalist’s job to understand the science and keep a working relationship with the experts. Be the intermediary between the professional and the audience.