Louise’s Blog Posts

Flint Offers a New Model for Accountability

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Flint Offers a New Model for Accountability

A couple of weeks ago, the task force Michigan governor Rick Snyder appointed to investigate Flint’s now infamous water crisis issued its long-awaited report.

The findings detailed failures in multiple government agencies to address high levels of lead, a neurotoxin, in the city’s water. To cut costs, in the spring of 2014 Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager had switched the city’s water supply from Detroit’s system to the more polluted Flint river and kept it there, despite community protests, for 18 months.

Calling the crisis “a clear case of environmental injustice,” the task force issued 44 recommendations that will cost millions to implement. The long-term damage to many Flint children is irreversible.

The hidden success story in this disheartening tale of denial and indifference was the collaboration of an ad hoc coalition of journalists, citizens, and academics whose combined efforts finally compelled the state of Michigan to act. “Without their courage and persistence,” the report noted, “this crisis likely never would have been brought to light and mitigation efforts never begun.”

Read more at Huffington Post

How to Turn Science into Great Investigative Journalism

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on How to Turn Science into Great Investigative Journalism

Many science writers are curious about investigative journalism, but unsure how to proceed.

At the recent Professional Development Day of the DC Science Writers Association, the largest regional gathering of science writers in the country, a panel of award-winning  journalists and investigators discussed how to identify, pitch and develop science-themed investigations for general audiences.

Read more at investigativereportingworkshop.org

New Film to Portray Investigations of Iraq War

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on New Film to Portray Investigations of Iraq War

This is Hollywood’s golden age for investigative journalism. On the heels of “Spotlight’s” Oscar triumphs, “Shock and Awe,” a similarly themed movie to be directed by Rob Reiner, is scheduled to go into production later this year.

The film, written by Joey Hartstone, who is also the screenwriter for Reiner’s upcoming film “LBJ,” tells the tale of the Knight Ridder team that got the story of Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction right in the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, when just about everyone else got it wrong.

Read more at investigativereportingworkshop.org

South Bronx Mom Who Collects Data on Policing is Invited to the White House (featured on investigativereportingworkshop.org)

Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on South Bronx Mom Who Collects Data on Policing is Invited to the White House (featured on investigativereportingworkshop.org)

Earlier this fall, I was invited to attend an extraordinary meeting at the White House. “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People” was the coming together of an effort that has been percolating in the federal government for the past couple of years, to engage more citizens in creating and using government data through citizen science and crowdsourcing.

Read more at investigativereportingworkshop.org

Combating Seafood Fraud  Requires Interdisciplinary Approaches  (featured on investigativereportingworkshop.org)

Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Combating Seafood Fraud  Requires Interdisciplinary Approaches  (featured on investigativereportingworkshop.org)

 

One of the things we do at the Investigative Reporting Workshop is explore how different academic disciplines can enrich and inform investigative journalism. A talk this week on seafood fraud sponsored by AU’s interdisciplinary ECOllaborative provides a case in point.

Read more at investigativereportingworkshop.org

 

What Pluto Tells Us About Journalism (featured at investigativereportingworkshop.org

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in Blog Posts, Homepage Blogs | Comments Off on What Pluto Tells Us About Journalism (featured at investigativereportingworkshop.org

When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back its first crisp images of Pluto last week, the culmination of a 3-billion mile, 9 1/2-year journey filled with cliffhangers and near disasters, you didn’t need to be a scientist to feel the exhilaration of discovering what was, until then, a dark and blurry corner of the solar system. Given my interests within research and media, I also thought about the lessons for journalism.

Read more at investigativereportingworkshop.org

The Art and Science of Failure (featured on Longreads.com)

Posted by on Feb 19, 2015 in Blog Posts, Homepage Blogs | Comments Off on The Art and Science of Failure (featured on Longreads.com)

boy smoke photo

Photo: Flickr, Mark McLaughlin

Failure is interesting. It comes in endless variations: professional, personal, comical, stupid, lazy, unexpected – to name just a few. You can also mix and match.

Though many abhor its bitter taste, in moderate doses failure can be a bracing tonic.

It also makes a good story.

Read more at Longreads.com

Science, Meet Journalism. You Two Should Talk

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Blog Posts, Homepage Blogs | Comments Off on Science, Meet Journalism. You Two Should Talk

When I began my term as a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center last year working on the project “Science and the Media,” I ran into a journalist colleague I hadn’t seen in years. When he heard what I was doing, he said in astonishment, “Science? How did you get interested in that?”

He wasn’t the only one to react that way. It’s a symptom of the relationship — or more precisely, the lack of a relationship — between scientists and the vast majority of journalists who do not cover science that such an interest is seen as unusual.sciencejournocoverjpg

Science and the Media and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Co-Host Program on Marine Invaders

Posted by on Sep 16, 2014 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Science and the Media and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Co-Host Program on Marine Invaders

With Scientists, Chefs, and Canoes, Journalists Explore Marine Invaders

 

By Louise Lief

Over 30 journalists and journalism school faculty paddled in canoes, learned new audience engagement strategies, chatted with chefs and seafood distributors and tasted gourmet cooking as part of a novel pilot program to give journalists in all fields enjoyable and productive access to the sciences while learning new journalism skills.

 

“Right Fish, Wrong Place: Invaders in the Coastal Zone,” a September 6, 2014 collaboration of the Science and the Media initiative and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), explored the world of marine invaders – creatures from other ports and regions that arrive in local waters and wreak environmental and economic damage.

Journalists canoe with scientists

Journalists canoe with scientists

 

The multifaceted program enabled journalists to experience the world of SERC’s scientists firsthand, as well as explore market and consumer solutions to environmental problems. Journalists also learned about crowdsourcing and citizen science projects that scientists and experts from the Smithsonian, a vast collection of museums and research centers visited by over 30 million people each year, are using to engage the public in their work and build an audience. These same strategies may also benefit news organizations.

 

The September 6 pilot program was the second to test a new professional development model for non-science journalists. The model combines science content and a journalism craft component. The first, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in June, explored marine creatures that glow and underwater photography.

 

Journalists and journalism school faculty that took part in the program came from a wide array of regional, national, and international organizations that included: The Associated Press, Bay Weekly (Annapolis), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Capital Gazette (Annapolis), CBS ’60 Minutes’, Congressional Quarterly, CTV News (Canada), Moment Magazine, PBS Newshour, The Atlantic, The Canadian Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Toronto Globe and Mail, USA Today, WMAR-TV ABC2 News (Baltimore), WYPR (Baltimore), American University School of Communications, and George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, and independent

 

SERC, located on a 2500-acre nature preserve on the Rhode river near the Chesapeake Bay, studies the dynamics of coastal regions throughout the world and works with communities and fisheries.

 

Dr. Gregory Ruiz, head of SERC’s Marine Invasions Research Lab, one of the word’s largest labs studying marine invasive species, had journalists inspect live crabs for invasive barnacles that, like the creatures in the movie Alien, take over their bodies and force their hosts to breed their young. His lab operates a joint program with the U.S. Coastguard that monitors all commercial shipping arriving in U.S. ports–over 100,000 ships per year–to detect invaders.

 

Matthew Ogburn, a SERC scientist who studies fish behavior and the invasive blue catfish that now dominates several rivers in the area, led the canoe trip. In the middle of the Rhode river, he demonstrated the use of advanced sonar and acoustic tracking devices implanted in live fish to discover the behavior of various aquatic life. The techniques he demonstrated were similar to those used to search for the Malaysian airliner that disappeared in March 2014.

 

At the audience engagement craft session, Robert Costello, national outreach program manager at the National Museum of Natural History and William McShea, a research ecologist at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute, discussed crowdsourcing and citizen science projects that have successfully engaged the public.

 

Costello and McShea’s eMammalproject, which recruits volunteers to set camera traps on public lands in collaboration with local partners, has documented the impact of hunting and hiking on animal populations in national parks in six states and along the Appalachian Trail. A much larger future program involving thousands of volunteers will document the movements of carnivores in 20 American cities.

Chef Jeff Buben

Chef Jeff Buben serves blue catfish several ways

Lunch provided opportunities for the journalists to explore – and taste – market and consumer solutions to the invaders. Jeffrey Buben, executive chef and owner of Washington D.C.’s Vidalia Restaurant and a James Beard award winner, prepared a meal featuring different preparations of blue catfish. Tim Sughrue, vice president of Congressional Seafood, a regional seafood distributor that supplies over 400 restaurants and Whole Foods Markets in the mid-Atlantic, provided the fish. In the past year, Sughrue said, the market for Chesapeake Bay “wild caught” blue catfish has grown from next to nothing to millions of pounds a year, and is still expanding.

 

Both Sughrue and Buben described the workings of seafood markets, state regulations and voluntary certifications that can help or hurt the introduction of new commercial species like the blue catfish, and the challenges involved in developing a consumer following for new types of seafood. Don Cosden, inland fisheries chief for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, answered questions about state fisheries policies, and a representative from Whole Foods answered questions about the chain’s seafood buying policies and color-coded certification program.

 

For more information about this program, contact Louise Lief at llief@mediaandscience.org

Data Journalism Helps Make Sense of a World Awash in Information

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Data Journalism Helps Make Sense of a World Awash in Information

Washington, D.C. July 30 –The explosion of data-sharing has created new opportunities for journalists to harness this information and create a more engaged and informed audience

At a Science and the Media and Wilson Center Commons Lab panel on Wednesday, July 30 entitled “Data Journalism and Policymaking: A Changing Landscape “ speakers explored the emerging field of data journalism and its impact. Alexander Howard, a writer and editor based in Washington D.C., said data journalism differs from other means of data-sharing because, unlike simply aggregrating and presenting data, reporters verify the information and put it into context to “support the creation of acts of journalism.”

His report, The Art and Science of Data-Drive Journalism, calls data journalism “the application of data science to journalism.” Howard says data journalists treat data as a source, as the media has traditionally done for human sources. They gather, clean, organize, analyze, visualize and publish it.

When viewing data this way, verification, clarity and transparency become necessary. A journalist must show the audience the work behind his or her conclusions, not only to gain their trust but to make sure the information is as accurate as possible.

data panel photo

Kalev Leetaru, Yahoo! Fellow at Georgetown University, described data as the “ultimate devil’s advocate.” “Does the data match people’s perceptions or does it tell a different story?” Leetaru asked. Sometimes indicators on the sidelines warn of greater trouble ahead, as did little-noticed reports of protests in Crimea while the world focused on the unrest in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

The massive amounts of data available on people’s personal lives now obliges journalists to make ethical decisions about what to share, said Howard. But data shared with the public can also mobilize people to act, as it did in a campaign to provide sanitation facilities to keep African girls in school, or mobilizing volunteers for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Collected Geiger counter readings warned of spreading radiation near Fukushima Japan after the tsunami damaged reactors there. .

Howard reminded attendees of the importance of maintaining a human element in stories. As journalists roles shift from primary information sources to curators, researchers, and teachers, they must remember their central role as storytellers first and foremost.

To watch the complete webcast of the event, click here.