Friday, May 22, 2009

media training

Today CSIRO sponsored a media training at my work. Reporters from radio, newsprint and tv came in and talked about science and the media with the help of a facilitator. About 10 or so scientists participated and it was the whole range from people who were working on relatively arcane topics to things that were more immediate and maybe even controversial. It was quite participatory which was good experience (I have a video that hopefully I'll be able to convert and upload).

Aside from Neko, today I realized that one of the other things I miss in my old work was interacting with the media. There's a love/hate relationship of the nuanced, soft spoken, rambling professor interested in gnats knees with the fly-by sensationalist reporter... but my experience was that it could be an unfortunate stereotype.

I often did interviews with newspapers and even had one NPR radio interview (disclaimer- not my most articulate um like work...and stuff...). CNN TV called me for a story once but never followed up.

True, when it was bad it was bad. For example, one time a reporter was sly and got me to forward him an email chain of a heated (but at that point very internal) controversy about global warming and the washington state climatologist. You know you're in trouble when your exasperated boss storms into your cubicle and says "Right... you do NOT answer the phone for a week".

But when it was good it was great. They'd call interested in the latest forecasts for runoff and I was probably one of only three or four people who know what was going on and could give them the best information. It made me feel like an "insider", I suppose a bit like that presidential staffer that nobody's heard of but actually knows all. The drama, the suspense, all fleeting but very engaging.

It is especially flattering when you get repeat business from a particular reporter. There were several I liked but I delighted when working with John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal. He clearly "got it" and was always able to draw out the good quotes, making me sound much more erudite than I probably am. Henry Brean in Salt Lake was good too.

Of course, there was no matching the Utah snow surveyor Randy Julander. I can't count the number of times I came in and scrolled through the morning news and did a spit take all over my screen on seeing his latest quote. Can't put my finger on one at the moment, but while accurate they were strikingly visual, and occasionally bawdy (he's only person I knew who could legitimately work the phrase "brass monkey" into a story). He also wrote the narratives for the utah water supply outlooks which are surprisingly fun to go back and read.

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