If you’re covering or following up on a breaking news story, it’s also worth looking up The Science Media Centre. As an independent press office, it works closely with institutions like universities to provide journalists with interviews and briefings in tight timeframes. Essentially, it sends roundups and rapid reactions following the release of big papers or news events.
While primarily used for breaking news, Weiss highlights how useful they can be for finding experts to comment on feature stories. After checking who was quoted in the initial coverage, Weiss then contacts the relevant experts to interview for more deeply reported stories.
Weiss also recommends regularly checking news sites like The Conversation, which publishes articles written by academics. If you are trying to find case studies and personal voices for your reporting, Weiss suggests approaching NGOs, charities, support groups, and searching social media with pronouns like “I” or “me” to surface personal posts.
What Questions Should You Ask Scientists?
Once you’ve found the right person, getting in touch is often the easy bit, with most academic institutions listing contact details on staff profiles. So, how to tackle the interview itself?
Ghosh advises asking as many questions as possible — and if the expert is digressing, bring them back to your questions. Even if they tell you it’s in the research paper, she recommends powering through and asking all your questions, “even if you feel that you are going to sound stupid.” She expands: “I think sounding stupid can be a gift in certain situations because you ask some of the very basic questions, and that gives you some cool responses.”