Six budding science journalists have been making the headlines after successfully completing the free online Script Science Communication Skills for Journalists course.
The course, offered under SciDev.Net’s Script programme, is a free online training programme for journalists and scientists to enhance the flow of reliable, research-based scientific information. Over 3,500 journalists and researchers have taken the online course.
Script alumni, Brenda Ajok, Dalton Mujuni, Jackson Sewanyana, Sam Wamani, Umar Weswala, and Ronald Musoke were selected for mentorship placement at New Vision in Uganda, one of the most respected media outlets in Africa.
As a result of this partnership the mentees have had 20 stories published by New Vision. The stories have covered various science topics ranging from the health benefits of purple tea to a study confirming how ash can be used to fight the devastating fall armyworm pest.
Sam Wamani, for instance, has been quite prolific having written and published eight stories since August including ‘Fear as rare cassava pest resurfaces,’ as well as ‘NARO develops superior cassava varieties’ and ‘Why your cassava roots are bitter.’
In other stories, Umar Weswala wrote ‘Are herbs undermining fight against malaria?’, Jackson Sewanyana’s stories included ‘Medical experts warn against frequenting saunas’ and ‘Antibiotic resistance: A growing killer of poultry’. Brenda Ajok’s published stories included ‘Nakaseke farmer employs bees to boost coffee production’ and ‘Winner of young farmer video awards tips youth.’ Ms Ajok also teamed up with Gerald Tenywa to write ‘Uganda safe as leprosy confirmed in West African chimps.’
SciDev.Net’s Dr Charles Wendo, science journalist, veterinary doctor and media trainer, said: “The biggest problem in Africa is a skill shortage and we see this in two ways. We do not have enough journalists with the capacity to report meaningfully on science, and we do not have enough scientists with the capacity to communicate their science either through the media or directly to the public.
“The online science communication course can help to improve the skills of journalists and scientists globally, including poorer regions where such training might not be available, or places where COVID-19 restrictions prevent in-person training.
“I am delighted that the Script mentees working at New Vision are testament to the effectiveness of the Script training which has given them the necessary skills to report science accurately and effectively.”
Sam Wamani, one of the mentees, said the mentorship programme had helped polish his science journalism skills. “I’m now able to communicate science in a precise and easy to understand way. The opportunity also opened me up to a network of professionals, policy makers and the farmers who are a great resource in my kind of work.”
Mrs Barbara Kaija, the Editor-in-Chief of New Vision, said: “The Script project has rejuvenated science journalism in the newsroom. There’s a deliberate effort for people to look out for science stories. I am happy that we managed to train other journalists other than the six mentees.
“I am happy that the mentees got good stories and many were flagged on Page One of the newspaper. When people are good science journalists, they are also good journalists generally. Therefore, the project is bringing back good journalism in the newsrooms.
“I like the involvement of editors in this mentorship programme because you could see good quality. I wish media houses are involved in identifying the mentees so that we get people who can stay and build the newsrooms.”
SciDev.Net’s Script training programme offers three online courses: Media Skills for Scientists, Science Communication Skills for Journalists, and Science Communication Skills for Press Officers. Students can access the courses via a digital hub with seven practical guides and online networking opportunities, all of which are free at the point of use.
Script currently has six partners made up of some of the most forward-thinking media and academic institutions in Africa. These include Nasarawa State University, Nigeria, Makerere University, Uganda, Moi University, Kenya, The University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Nation Media Group and Vision Group. Script has also worked with Radio Nigeria and The Conversation Africa.
Main image: The New Vision newsroom in Kampala, Uganda (Credit: New Vision).
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