Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

September 9, 2016

Cited is the first of its kind: it’s a documentary radio show, produced out the academy, that tells stories that sound like This American Life or Radiolab. Not like dry lectures. (There are lots of podcasts that sound like that).

Our work (like this story about a kidnapping that took place in Tacoma, Washington 20 years ago and this story about a debate over how to teach Canadian history) has played on CBC and NPR and has won national radio awards in Canada. We’re thrilled to let you know that we’re going be doing more of this kind of work over the next two years. 

We recently received a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant to try a bit of an experiment. 

Here’s the gist. For a long time academics have been saying that the pipeline between researchers and the media is broken. News rooms are shrinking and it is hard for journalists to tell stories about esoteric research in a way that listeners and readers find engaging. This means that many important studies don’t get covered. And when journalists do cover research, they often exaggerate or misrepresent results.

The media doesn’t necessarily think this is working either. Often the smartest experts in the world aren’t the best communicators or storytellers. And it can be hard to figure out what their study about carbon capture in old growth forests really means. Why should people care about it? If you are filing multiple stories everyday and you don’t have a PhD in forest management, you might just decide to cover something else.

So we are trying something new. 

This is all going to be run by a team of professors–Allen SensKathryn Gretsinger, Amanda Cooper, and Philip Savage–as well as our documentary radio producers, Sam Fenn and Gordon Katic.

We have gathered research partners at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the University of Washington Center for Human Rights who are serious about public outreach. We also have media partners at The Tyee and The Georgia Straight who are committed to evidence-based journalism. We are going to get these people in the same room (with our team of documentary radio producers) to make multimedia journalism projects together. Those projects will be broadcast on our weekly podcast, Cited. Some of it will also play on the national CBC radio show The Doc Project, NPR-affiliate KUOW and the Vancouver-area station Roundhouse Radio.

This is an experiment. We don’t know what’s going to happen. It might not work at all! At the end of the experiment, Professors Philip Savage at McMaster University and Amanda Cooper at Queen’s will evaluate our documentaries and see if we did a better job of telling research stories than documentarians who work in the traditional model. And, whether our documentaries were as entertaining and interesting as they could be.

If you want to follow our progress—we are going to be talking about it on our weekly podcast. We just launched our first episode of the season.You can subscribe on iTunes to make sure you never miss an episode.

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