My tribute to Christina Scott

It was with great sadness to hear of reports early this week 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 Johannesburgfrom 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 inSouth 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 past”.

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 very true.

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…

Here Mail & Guardian newspaper’s obituary of Scott published today.

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