Tuesday, April 17, 2007

High opera, low comedy and the church of scientology

Science journalists at the World Conference of Science Journalists seem to be passing the “dedication to profession" test with flying colours! Two hard-to-resist temptations are in the neighbourhood of the conference venue, the Grand Hyatt hotel on Collins Street in downtown Melbourne. One is the Melbourne Comedy Festival, the other the males-only Swan Lake ballet at the Regent Theatre. No one has confessed to yielding to the temptations – yet.

As I said, the Grand Hyatt has interesting neighbours. The Church of Scientology (a.k.a. Tom Cruise) for one. Right near the conference venue. Science, Scientology - related only on spellcheck.
Meanwhile, the Australians treated us to an evening at the Melbourne aquarium on the banks of the Yarra River. The Latino delegation -- Laura Garcia from Argentina, Luisa Massarani, the SciDev.Net Latin America co-ordinator, based in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; Valeria Roman from Argentina, Daniella Hirschfeld from Uruguay, and Ximena from Columbia, enjoyed all sitting around a shark tank. (A frequently-heard response from South African delegate Christina Scott, a paid-up member of the Cape Town Oceanarium: "OUR sharks are bigger than THEIR sharks!") The Latino delegation promised to dance if the uusual musical trio - dressed first in polar bear outfits and then in divers' gear, complete with flippers and saxophones, snare drums and tuba, as seen in the photo - would only play salsa. Sadly, the three Australian musicians said their only salsa was with chips.

A wise colleague from the developed world, giving tips on better science reporting for journalists from developing countries at a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, said we (the developing world journos) should go out of scientific conferences and hunt for more information outside.
I am all for it – I would like to have more information about new science of operas and standup comedy.

The temptation, err sorry information, is necessary for the survival of science news -- the 5th WCSJ noted how pop singer Britney Spears' marital troubles and the death of a starlet named Anna Nicole Smith are elbowing science news from the pages. All we have to do is emphasise the fun in science.
T V Padma, Scidev.Net South Asia

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