Science journalists band together at SJAA

By Elliott Richardson in Media News on
Though scientific journalism has been under threat in recent times due to cutbacks in media budgets, important scientific issues like climate change and anti-vax campaigns have reaffirmed the significance of science journalism, and brought about the birth of the Science Journalists Association of Australia.

The association grew out of a Facebook group established five years ago by ABC science editor Darren Osborne and Nature editor Steven Pincock said interim SJAA president, Bianca Nogrady.
“A group of us (science journalists) had been tossing around the idea for a while of setting up an organisation for science journalists in Australia. For a long time, science journalism had been on the back-foot in Australia; there were very few in-house science journalist jobs in the mainstream media, with many previous science journalists having either been made redundant or taken redundancies as part of the crisis that was affecting— and continues to affect —the mainstream media,” said Nogrady.
“But in recent years, that trend seems to be turning around for science journalism, at least in some areas of media. There is more science coverage, more interest in science, more science-focused outlets— particularly in the digital space —and more science journalists, particularly freelancers.
So after a couple of conversations at the Quantum Words science writing festival in October 2018 (at Writing NSW), we decided the time had come to set up an organisation to support this growing community.”
The organisation was formally incorporated in June 2019 and, as Nogrady explains, and was conceived to assist scientific journalism in Australia.
“The Science Journalists Association of Australia aims to support and foster the professional interests of practising and aspiring science journalists in Australia, and to champion and advocate for independence and excellence in science journalism,” she said.
“We want to provide networking and professional development opportunities for Australian science journalists; we want to champion the importance of independent science journalism in Australia and celebrate its excellence; we want to encourage more people into science journalism and support aspiring science journalists to pursue a career in this area; and we want to give this growing community every opportunity to be bigger, better and brighter.”
Nogrady said the association will look to provide opportunities such as professional development courses uniquely designed for science journalists, networking events, as well as provide encouragement and support to the community.
“Independent, rigorous science journalism is more important than ever, and we believe we can play an important role in nurturing that in Australia. At a time when our media is increasingly fragmented, we also provide a place where science journalists can support each other in producing work that is interesting, ethical and provides a valuable resource for Australians.”
Full membership is open to all science journalists across the full spectrum of print, digital, radio, television, podcasting, blogging and vlogging and those teaching science at the tertiary level. Associate membership, without voting rights, is also available to those who wish to support science journalism as well as student memberships.
The current interim board consists of Nogrady as president, Nicky Phillips as treasurer and Sara Phillips as secretary. The foundation committee is made up of  Jonathan Webb, Carl Smith and Natasha Mitchell from the ABC, Stephen Pincock, Nicky Phillips and Sara Phillips from Nature and freelances Dyani Lewis, Fran Molloy, Wilson da Silva and Nogrady.
The inaugural AGM of the SJAA is slated to be held in April this year.
The SJAA can be contacted via their website.

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