However, the first wave of reporters began hitting the ACS News Service Press Room just after the noon opening. They left with a precious resource for informing the public about new advances in chemistry that will be reported at this scientific extravaganza during the next week.
News releases pour down on journalists like snowflakes in a blizzard. In the pre-Internet days, scores of news releases bulged in the canvas sacks of U. S. mail delivered every morning to my office in the National Press Building. The Internet shrunk the Snail Mail deliveries. But it fostered an even-heavier downpour of emailed news releases and online collections like Eurekalert and its European counterpart, AlphaGalileo.
In 30+ years of daily journalism, I probably received 25,000 news releases. Some were invaluable in helping me research, report and write stories. Not until 6 months ago, however, did I begin to appreciate the effort and care that went into producing those news releases.
That’s when I crossed over into media relations as a science writer with the ACS Office of Communications (OC). During the last few months, the OC staff has devoted much of its time to preparing resources that will help the news media during the next 5 days of this meeting.
Reporters in the Press Room can get paper news releases and a CD-ROM called the ACS News Service Press Book. It is one of several innovations we’ve introduced to help news media cover this national meeting. More are in the works, as you will see when we unveil a new electronic pressroom for the next national meeting (March 2007 in Chicago).
The Press Book contains two dozen news releases on presentations at this meeting, more than 600 non-technical summaries of scientific papers, and a press briefing schedule. We’ve include an audio dial-in feature for the press briefings this year for reporters unable to attend in person.
Preparing the Press Book involved reviewing all the scientific abstracts submitted for the meeting. There were nearly 10,000. OC science writers worked for weeks to identify several thousand potentially newsworthy papers. Each presenter got an emailed request for more information and for a non-technical summary of the paper. From the responses, we chose topics for full-length news releases, tips sheets, news briefings, and podcasts.
That’s one side of the news release that I never appreciated – the effort. I could devote an entire post to the other – the care that goes into preparation of each news release to assure accuracy and balance.
Whether on paper, a CD, in an email or posted online, these most basic of resources for communicating science to the public deserve more respect.
Tomorrow these meeting rooms will be crowded with scientists, and I'll be reporting from several scientific sessions. Please tune in, and remember that this weblog is open for comments, and yours certainly are welcome on the news release and other posts.
-- Michael Woods