Written by Vitalba Crivello.
Expectations were high when the 2023 edition of the annual ESMH summer school for young media makers kicked off on 6 June at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Some sixty young journalists, science communicators and students from EU countries filled the room with excitement about the nine thematic sessions of the five-day school programme, focusing on ‘Storytelling in science’ and culminating in two sessions at EYE2023.
The event offered young journalists an opportunity to reflect upon the complex task of reporting on scientific topics, meeting and networking with experts in science communication and journalism.
DAY 1: science stories in the current media landscape
Crafting science stories is indeed a challenging task, especially at times of crises and uncertainty.
As Christian Ehler (EPP, Germany), STOA Chair noted during his opening speech, the current media landscape presents big challenges for science journalism. To overcome them, the ESMH and STOA are encouraging young media-makers to research, look for and shape science stories capable of gaining and maintaining public trust at a time when misinformation is a prominent risk.
A discussion panel on the status of the current media landscape and the future challenges for science journalism followed. Thanks to a very active audience, the lively debate set the scene for the whole event.
DAY 2: trust
How do we persuade the public to trust sound science news?
Thiswas the key question around which the three sessions on 7 June revolved.
The day started with a hands-on training run by Kai Kupferschmidt (Science reporter at Science magazine, Berlin), who engaged participants in an interactive discussion about how to define news and what makes something ‘newsworthy’.
The morning continued with a roundtable on how journalists can better understand their audience and gain their trust, with particular attention paid to the dynamics of the digital world.
The afternoon session carried the discussion on the role of trust in science news even further, by looking at the rationale behind science denialism and exploring solutions to help the public avoid falling into the misinformation trap.
DAY 3: storytelling and best practices for science journalism
Moving on, the 8 June session started with a masterclass on storytelling. Here, participants did a practical exercise and analysed two science stories, discussing how to engage with and retain the audience by using a narrative that would grip their emotions until a story’s conclusion.
Then it was time for another discussion panel, where fact-checkers, journalists and researchers exchanged views on how a science journalist can ensure scientific accuracy while applying the storytelling technique.
Day 3 ended with a session on new tools for science journalism, notably with an eye on the possibilities and risks of generative AI and Chat GPT.
DAY 4: climate stories (at EYE2023)
On 9 June, the 60 young participants in the ESMH summer school mingled with the young people attending EYE2023, for two sessions on climate stories.
In the first panel, expert speakers from traditional and digital media discussed the effectiveness of storytelling in inspiring climate action, paying particular attention to approaching and understanding their audience.
Immediately after the panel, Youtuber Simon Clark and seasoned science journalist Alok Jha ran a masterclass on how to build a science story, observing the similarities and differences of creating a captivating story on social and traditional media.
DAY 5: EYE2023 and the future of science journalism
On 10 June, while the summer school’s participants were free to attend additional sessions at EYE2023, the ESMH team began to receive feedback on the 2023 ESMH summer school. As this was generally enthusiastic, the team will continue their work to offer young journalist further opportunities to learn and share.
As Kai Kupferschmidt said ‘Young journalists can count on proficiency with new tools, and social media provides them fresh perspectives that I think can contribute to improving the system that we have now. I think there is a huge opportunity there and I think there will be people who grasp it.’