Tuesday 1 April 2014

Engaging with the Media

The other week, at Cardiff Futures,  Chris Chambers shared a story about how the media had mis-represented some of his research. Chris and his colleagues challenged that, and had a bit of a set-to with journalists, who thought academics should not try to censor what the media reports (which wasn't quite Chris' point).

With typical tenacity, Chris and his colleagues pursued this, including preparing a submission to the Leveson enquiry.

However, the story had a positive ending, as eventually Chris forged productive relationships with a number of good journalists; indeed he now has a blog, Head Quarters, on the Guardian site, and the media are supporting his current project: to get accurate research considered by politicians considering policy issues.

I was reminded of all this today when I heard another academic, Moran Cerf whose research was mis-represented. I am sure that, as in Chris' case, the mis-representation was largely unintentional. Journalists operate in a very different way to academics, and the need for good stories, combined with working against deadlines, can sometimes lead to genuine errors. 

This time, the story that went viral was about academics (and eventually the CIA and FBI) recording peoples' dreams.

You can listen to the Moran Cerf's account of it here.

So what's the moral of all this?  It's hard to say. Clearly the media are valuable in getting research understood and debated by a far wider audience than academic journals can hope to reach. But equally clearly, there are real risks that stories get misunderstood and mis-reported: and putting that genie back in the bottle is nigh-on impossible.  So perhaps the moral is that even from such trials and tribulations, a persistent and principled approach can create a good outcome over the longer term.

No comments:

Post a Comment