Symposiums-logo

Making a difference
Zika workshop focuses on international collaboration

Journalists from 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean made a field visit to La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica during a regional workshop organized by InquireFirst. Photo by José Diaz/Agencia Ojo por Ojo

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Science and health journalism should not be limited by international borders. Complex new health threats such as Zika virus that occur in a “noisy” media environment require a new model of reporting, Andrew Revkin, strategic adviser on science and environmental journalism for The National Geographic Society, told reporters and editors at a regional science journalism workshop organized by InquireFirst in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica.

Revkin was one of several prominent science and environment editors from major U.S. media organizations who traveled to Costa Rica for a March 4-8, 2018, workshop to help journalists hone their science and health reporting skills on public health coverage such as Zika and vector-borne diseases.

Also joining InquireFirst at the Costa Rica workshop were Gary Stix, senior editor of Scientific American and Manuel Canales, senior graphics editor at National Geographic, who provided the journalists with new techniques for reaching people with crucial public health information.

As public health risks cross borders, Revkin said journalists need to conduct transnational reporting to keep their audiences informed. He encouraged journalists to “be courageous about avoiding overstatement, and to test assumptions – even your own.”

Revkin also underscored the effectiveness of starting and sustaining a conversation with the public and health experts. By building communication channels with the public on social media and radio call-in shows before a public crisis such as Zika occurs, journalists can more effectively communicate critical information about an outbreak, he said.

The regional workshop titled “Informing About Risks and Prevention of an Epidemic” was attended by 37 science and health journalists from 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

These journalists report on the most urgent science and health issues in their countries for national media organizations, including national television networks, national radio stations and the largest daily newspapers in the country. They were awarded scholarships based on their experience in the areas of science and health coverage, and also on their decision-making role in their news organization and/or their leadership in founding their own science journalism news organizations.

Journalists attended the workshop from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

To ensure that journalists from these countries, all of which face a serious health risk posed by Zika and other vector-borne diseases, had the opportunity to attend the workshop, InquireFirst Executive Director S. Lynne Walker turned to her region-wide network to invite science journalists to attend.

Among the journalists invited were: the news editor of La Prensa, a national newspaper in Managua, Nicaragua; the founder of an online science/environmental news site in Guatemala who has attended three biennial meetings of the World Conference of Science Journalists in the UK, Qatar and Finland; the founder of an online science news site in San Salvador; the news director of a regional radio station in Estelí, Nicaragua; a science/environment reporter for Prensa Libre, the largest daily newspaper in Guatemala; a science/health reporter for the daily newspaper El Nuevo Diario in Nicaragua; the managing editor of El Sol de Hermosillo in Mexico; and a science/environment correspondent for the national news network Guatevision.

Walker also invited officials from health departments in Latin America who are charged with developing a communication strategy on Zika and other vector-borne diseases. Representatives from Mexico and Panama participated in a panel discussion, which included an M.D. from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health, on effective strategies and challenges in reaching a mass audience with information on the risks and prevention of Zika.

Journalists heard a superb presentation by Dr. Gisela Herrera, a specialist in infectious diseases, who is conducting a Phase 2B Zika vaccine trial in Costa Rica in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and medical professionals in countries such as Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. The presentation by Dr. Herrera offered a regional context for research being done on Zika and clinical trials led by the United States to develop a vaccine.

A highlight of the workshop was a presentation on the relationship between the environment and vector-borne diseases by Carlos de la Rosa, Ph.D., director of La Selva Biological Station run by the Organization for Tropical Studies, which was founded by a consortium of scientists from U.S. universities and the University of Costa Rica. After hearing Dr. de la Rosa’s presentation, the journalists made a day-long field visit to La Selva learn about the interdependence of health and biodiversity during a two-hour hike in the tropical rain forest.

A prestigious panel of scientists and medical professionals worked with the journalists during an interactive session on effective preparation and interview techniques for science and health stories. On the panel were: Dr. María Luisa Ávila Agüero, former Minister of Health in Costa Rica; Dr. Pedro León Azofeifa, president of the National Academy of Sciences in Costa Rica; Dr. José Vega-Baudrit, Director of the National Laboratory of Nanotechnology in Costa Rica; and Dr. Henriette Raventós Vorst, professor and researcher at the Center for Biological Celular and Molecular Research at the University of Costa Rica.

To date, 16 news stories based on presentations during the workshop have been published in national newspapers and science news websites, or broadcast on national news networks in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The journalists’ feedback on the workshop was overwhelmingly positive.

“I appreciate the opportunity that you have given independent journalists to participate in your workshop,” wrote participant Lucy Calderón, founder of EcoCienciaGT, an online science/environmental news site in Guatemala. “Your support, provided through training programs, encourages us to continue offering quality journalism to our audiences in addition to strengthening our credibility with our public.”

Wrote another journalist, “The quality of the speakers and scientists was excellent.
Thank you for opening and creating spaces to share the realities faced by journalists around the world.”

Gabriela Salido, executive editor of El Sol de Hermosillo in northern Mexico, said, “I have the moral obligation to take the information from this workshop to my newsroom, and with the motivation that I have received during this program it will not be difficult to do so.”

2017 Symposiums

InquireFirst Executive Director S. Lynne Walker will organize and instruct journalism symposiums in 2017 on investigative reporting and safety protocols, digital storytelling and science, health and environment coverage in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The symposiums will be presented in Spanish.

Rocio Gallegos, editorial director of El Diario, looks at a map of Ciudad Juarez marked with the areas of the city where the worst outbreaks of drug violence have occurred. Photo by S. Lynne Walker/InquireFirst

 

May 15-16, 2017
Cuidad Juarez, Mexico
Investigative Journalism & Journalist Safety

During the two-day Investigative Journalism workshop for print, online, radio and television reporters and editors, Walker will focus on the urgent issue of journalist safety.

Walker will meet with the directors of media organizations to discuss the risks they face and ways to conduct investigative coverage without putting reporters’ lives in danger. She will also lead conversations with journalism students at two universities in Ciudad Juarez about the fundamentals of fact-based reporting as well as answering their questions about daily reporting.


imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo

June 12-16, 2017
Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City
Tools & Techniques for Investigative Reporting

In Guatemala City,  journalists will attend a two-day Tools & Techniques workshop led by Walker, who will meet separately with journalists in Quetzaltenango. The program will focus on developing investigative news stories, techniques for finding and interviewing sources, writing investigative reports and the ethics of investigative journalism.


Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo

June 19-23, 2017
San Pedro Sula and Comayagua, Honduras
Engaging Audiences with In-Depth Reporting

In San Pedro Sula, Walker will lead a two-day workshop on accurate sourcing and producing thorough, balanced investigative journalism that results in greater transparency and good governance. Walker will also conduct intensive reporting workshops in the colonial city of Comayagua.


Shutterstock

August 21-25, 2017
San Diego, California
Digital Storytelling  in the 21st Century

This five-day workshop will focus on multi-platform storytelling as well as the dissemination of information through new media. The program includes discussions with specialists on the issues of accuracy and credibility, libel and other legal questions, reporting ethics and the sourcing of information in electronic media. During training sessions with digital media and social media experts, journalists will engage in hands-on training sessions designed to provide new reporting tools that will allow them to present immediate and accurate information in this new reporting environment. The workshop will be offered in Spanish.


Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

September 1, 2017
Virtual session from San Diego, CA
Advanced Investigative Journalism 

This virtual session focuses on every aspect of investigative journalism — from idea to planning to reporting and writing and finally to follow-up stories.  More than 100 journalists will be attending the session from Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas, as well as the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Tamaulipas.


Shutterstock

September 25-29, 2017
Asunción, Paraguay
Investigative Reporting & Access to Information

Journalists in Asuncion, Caacupe and Itaugua, Paraguay, will attend a three-day workshop instructed by InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker on investigative reporting and techniques for accessing information for in-depth reporting.
Paraguay is readying for party primaries in December and a presidential election in April 2018. Walker will meet with journalists at Asuncion’s leading news organizations about access to information and government accountability. She will also meet with government officials and employees to discuss stategies for responsible disclosure of federal and local government activities.


October 25-30, 2017
San Francisco, California
Bridging Science and Societies

InquireFirst and Mexico City-based Fundacion Ealy Ortiz will bring together 50 science journalists for a October 25 professional development workshop to present practical, hands-on training sessions to sharpen reporting skills on the most pressing science, health and environmental issues in the Western Hemisphere.

The 2017 Latin American Edition of the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism Workshop workshop is designed to promote excellence in science, health and environmental coverage in Latin America and the Caribbean and to underscore the need for deeply reported science coverage by local and regional media organizations.

This year’s workshop is being organized as part of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 (WCSJ) in San Francisco, California. Journalists attending the workshop will also participate in the WCSJ, which will host 1,200 reporters and editors from 70 countries.


LE PICTORIUM/Alamy Stock Photo

November 9-11, 2017
La Paz, Bolivia
Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age

Reporters and editors in the capital city of La Paz will attend a 14-hour workshop instructed by Walker on Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age. The workshop, organized by the Fundacion para el Periodismo, is being offered to journalists studying for a Master of Journalism degree.

 

Shutterstock

December 7-8, 2017
México City, México
Technology, Innovation & Journalism

Executive Director Lynne Walker will participate as a trainer in a México City TechCamp organized by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

The TechCamp aims to increase the digital literacy, media safety and investigative journalism skills of almost 60 participants from México, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The participants are working as independent journalists, as part of investigative units or in traditional media outlets on issues where they face censorship or physical harm.

 

Investigative-Tagline