Media Training in a Nutshell

One of the great things about working in astronomy is that the press and public are keenly interested in what we do. That's the good news. The bad news is that few of us receive any training, in our education or on the job, in how to communicate effectively with the press and public. Yet funding agencies increasingly expect researchers to reach beyond the scientific community to share discoveries and insights with a broader audience. As stated by International Astronomical Union (IAU) Commission C, Communicating Astronomy with the Public, "It is the responsibility of every practicing astronomer to play some role in explaining the interest and value of science to our real employers, the taxpayers of the world."

To help fill the gap between expectation/responsibility and preparation ― and to help you avoid panic if a reporter calls ― many organizations offer media training for scientists. The best place to look for such help is at your own institution, which may offer media training through its news/press/media/public-information office (it goes by different names at different organizations). The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conduct science-communication workshops all over the United States. The AAS hopes to begin offering similar workshops in conjunction with its semiannual meetings; watch our meeting announcements for more information.

In the meantime, linked below, you'll find seven handy one-page "nutshell guides" (PDFs) that you may find helpful. Former AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg compiled them and has distributed them at presentations he's given to groups of scientists around the country.

Where can you find additional information? The Open Notebook has many useful references, including an article with a detailed flowchart to help you determine whether a story qualifies as newsworthy. Another great resource is the article "Talking Science with Journalists" by Jason Socrates Bardi and Catherine Meyers of the American Institute of Physics News & Media Services team. It appeared in the May 2015 issue of Physics Today and is available online for free. Finally, Sense About Science USA has a three-part PDF media guide for scientists, based on a survey of 218 science journalists about what scientists should know before, during, and after being interviewed.

Rick Fienberg, AAS Press Officer 2009 – 2021
(Updated by Susanna Kohler, AAS Press Officer)