It was with great sadness to hear of reports on 31 October
2011 that an SA FM science journalist had lost her life on her way to the
hospital after a car accident. Her loss left a great space in the broadcast and
print science journalism.
Christina Scott, author, broadcaster and journalist
according to her LinkedIn
profile, was in 2008 nominated as
KZN Vodacom Journalist of the year for the online category. In August this year
she also hosted
the radio station’s SA Literature show on Sundays while during the week
presenting her Science Matters slot every Thursday from 21-22 pm.
Scott was one of the speakers at the Reporting Science
conference held in Johannesburg
from 19 – 20 November 2007 and whose purpose, according to
BizCommunity.Com, was to build and strengthen journalists’ awareness of
scientific news and their skills in reporting and writing about science in
accessible and interesting ways. The conference targeted senior reporters in South Africa
and on the continent, including science writers/reporters, television/radio
presenters, producers, sub-editors, HIV/Aids journalists, editors and
journalism students (post-graduate).
George Classes, a science journalist and former head of the
Department of Journalism at the University of Stellenbosch and co-ordinator of
the Communicating Science at the University of Cape Town once said science
is the driver of development and technology but that most lay people do not
understand or appreciate the impact it has on our daily lives because research
and scientific developments rarely make it into the public sphere unless there
is some sensational value attached to it.
According to Classes the media is the vehicle through which
science can be communicated to the wider public and this needs to happen in the
interest of the country’s future development. This is exactly what Scott did
with her weekly science programme on SA FM. He said lack of scientific
information and research in the public sphere could be “ascribed in some part
to the way scientists view the media, which can sometimes be with an air of
suspicion as the media has been not been great at communicating science in the
Classes said this was made worse because “there is not a
single newspaper, radio or TV station in the country that has a dedicated
science desk run by a trained science editor”. He said “our media is more
interested in reporting politics and sport and this needs to change if we are
to have any hope of giving science more prominence in our society” which is
But of course Scott’s show (as far as I know) was the only
one in the country that was specifically dedicated to science reporting on a
weekly basis. She made it much easier for some of us who did not grasp some of
the bombastic words in science. Her simple science broadcasting made it even
easier for a lay-man to understand it because many of her topics covered were
those that one had done during high school and listening to her simplifying
them that way was great. But of course this is not to say our teachers then
made science any difficult. In that way it was easier for anyone to tune in and
listen and learn quite a lot. For as long as I was at my place I never missed
any of her shows although I can’t say I remember the last show. Scott also
covered the climate change topic at some point.
Or maybe my liking Scott and listening to her show every
Thursday had something, if not everything, to do with her somewhat British
accent? I doubt. I mean the woman was good and she knew what she was doing,
unlike many others. Scott was not the type of a scientist who Classes said would
be “sitting up in ivory towers keeping their work out of the public domain”
knowing very well that their work is “mostly publicly funded and therefore have
a duty to share their research with the broader society.” No, she was not. She
went out there.
Unlike scientists Classes referred to, Scott, on the other
hand, made sure that her science journalism skill was shared with many others
in the public domain through her Science Matters shown. Her rare shown went
“some way towards bridging the gap” between science and communities.
Scott will be missed and may her soul rest in peace…
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