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Guest Thinkers

The Future of Science Journalism? Local Hubs & News Games

Yesterday I turned in a short essay to the BA’s Science & Public Affairs magazine about science communication in the Obama era. In the essay, among recommendations,I floated a proposal that is directly relevant to the future of science journalism and that has been on my mind as I work with colleagues at the Center for Social Media on an analysis of how public media can adapt to and take advantage of the digital landscape.

Here’s what I wrote:

Community initiatives of a different kind should focus on building a “participatory” media infrastructure for science and environmental information. Most local newspapers have cut meaningful coverage of science and the environment. As a result, many communities lack the type of relevant news and information that is needed to adapt to environmental challenges or to reach collective choices about issues such as nanotechnology and biomedical research. As a way to address these local-level information gaps, the Obama administration should fund public television and radio organizations as community science information hubs that partner with universities, museums, and other local media outlets to produce and share digital content that is interactive and user-focused. These community focused and hyper-local digital portals would feature in depth reporting, blogs, podcasts, shared video, news aggregation, user recommendations, learning and problem-focused games, social networking, and commenting.

So what are some examples of this new trend already at work? Well, for one, take a look at what KQED is doing in connecting information sources across the San Francisco Bay area on science, nature, and sustainability. I hope to have more on this example in coming months.

But for now, take some time out to play American Public Media’s news game “Consumer Consequences” and experience how much you can personally learn about sustainability and energy.

The game is an early look at the future of science journalism, where media organizations are no longer simply transmitting to a mass audience, but rather where engaged users are at the center of information, adding, commenting, and providing content while learning about issues in novel ways, modes of presentation that make science content interesting, enjoyable, and understandable.

These games won’t take the place of news, but they will be major components of news organization offerings. See how American Public Media uses Consumer Consequences as part of a a larger media initiative on energy and sustainability.


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