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Evaluating Metcalf Institute Impacts

NewsPro image

Image: Crain’s NewsPro

For twenty years, Metcalf Institute has been helping journalists translate the science behind environmental stories. We’ve learned a few things along the way, and several recent articles share our insights about the importance and impacts of professional development for journalists.

Sunshine Menezes, Metcalf’s executive director, was invited to write a guest column about Metcalf training for Crain’s NewsPro, a magazine for journalism professionals and educators. In the piece, she argues that specialized training on environmental issues is increasingly critical for journalists. “Now, from local planning issues raised by more frequent and intense extreme weather events to regional and national economic impacts of our energy choices, to national security or immigration, there is an environmental angle everywhere you turn.” Read more.

She also wrote an article to be published soon in Frontiers in Communication, an open-access journal for communication researchers. The piece, part of a special issue focused on trends and opportunities in science and environmental journalism, highlights the challenges journalists face in covering science topics and Metcalf Institute’s lessons learned over twenty years of training. “In the U.S., relatively few organizations offer science training opportunities for journalists, but the need and demand for these programs is growing as newsrooms increasingly rely on generalist reporters to cover a wide range of scientific topics.” Read the abstract.

Another recent academic article co-authored by URI Harrington School of Communication and Media colleagues Dr. Hollie Smith and Christine Gilbert summarized the effects of Metcalf Institute training. Smith and Gilbert conducted a survey of alumni from all Metcalf journalist training programs. They also analyzed the reporting of recent Annual Science Immersion Workshop alumni, before and after their Metcalf training. The study revealed long-lasting impacts from the training, including greater confidence and skills for science reporting as well as positive changes in Workshop participants’ reporting, such as their use of scientific sources, references to scientific uncertainty, and greater scientific context. Read more.

These published results mirror the feedback we receive from journalists who attend Metcalf training. As an alum of the 2016 Annual Science Immersion Workshop wrote, “this Workshop encourages journalists to recognize and identify a broader and deeper swath of potential environmental science stories than they might regularly encounter, and energizes and empowers them to pursue such stories within their organization with an infusion of new contacts from the scientific and public policy communities. All of this adds up to: an invaluable experience.”