In Reality TV casting

You turn on CBC, the reporter points to the map saying “beautiful day on the coast, 26 degrees. We see the high pressure area over here but later in the week, perhaps some showers…” We get a fair share of science from the news, including weather reporting. I was intrigued to see Ms. Claire Martin, meteorologist on CBC News, visit Vancouver last week to share what it means to be the voice for our information. On a local level, the daily forecast affects our everyday plans, and on a global
level, our understanding of weather can shape how we contribute to the discussion on climate change.

Coming from a purely science background, Claire captured me right away with her jolly voice and clear speech. Not missing a chance to include humor, she guided us though the key components of how to communicate what she calls “sexy, scintillating and straight forward science.”

In one of her many pieces of wisdom, what came as a surprise – or what I had taken for granted – was that sharing info has become way easier than before. I’m not just talking about the advance in technology – but our attitude towards where information comes from, and in what form.

Take youtube. How many times have you seen people post their home videos that they share for laughs and smiles? Take twitter. Someone very active on twitter told me she doesn’t really know how to write up a full article. However, within a limited 140 characters, she shares links with catchy captions that pique your interest and keeps you hooked for information and entertainment. Take facebook. It’s an everyday (or rather, every second) occurrence to see a casual conversation on someone’s wall, and that might be where you get important news first-hand.

For my favorite example, one man with a marker and whiteboard communicates a strong message (from 1:27):

It’s not a fancy documentary or news station report, but a single guy in a T-shirt on low-quality video, talking with no background sound. Still, somehow does he not make you feel like you’re engaged in a quality conversation?

Perhaps watching CBC, it seems quite scripted, and set up with make up and complex camera, sound, and lighting equipment. But we also live with reality TV. It doesn’t have to be scripted, you don’t have to be model-pretty or be an expert to get coverage. Even on the news, I see reporters speaking to experts on a fuzzy sounding, slightly pixelated skype call. Yet we accept this to be on TV to get an expert’s opinion or image of someone on site. Sharing science is only one video, one post, one click away.

The downside is, sometimes the information we get from the wide range of today’s media is correct, and sometimes it’s totally off…but an inspiring take home message from Claire was to take advantage of this “time of reality TV.” After putting yourself through years of further education, unless you “choose the column” of taking action and getting your ideas out there, you rule out the possibility of those ideas turning into anything good.

January 30, 2014Permalink Leave a comment

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