How Can Engineering Be Better Represented In The Media?

IOM3
,
22 Jun 2017

Science is one of the most widely viewed news topics in UK media today. However, there is a conventional consensus that engineering is being unfairly served by broadcasters and press, especially when coverage is compared with medicine and technology.

In a recent panel discussion, at the University of College London, engineers and communications experts came together to focus on how the media works, whether coverage of engineering is being neglected, and how engineers can help to ensure their subject is communicated better.

Katia Moskvitch, Editor of Professional Engineering, explained ‘The media are failing to report that engineering is at the heart of almost every single human activity. Nearly every physical product is grounded in engineering. Lack of exposure does not help engineering, it does not help the economy and it does not help our society.’

Katia went on further to say, ‘Journalists need to tell stories through the lens of a hero, and engineering does not lend itself well to this. If you look at Silicon Valley, in technology there is Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, in business there is Richard Branson. Engineering however is a team effort, which makes it difficult to excite an audience.’

Anna Ploszajski, Material Scientist and Engineer at University of College London, said ‘In the case of news media, engineering journalism just doesn’t exist in the same way as science journalism. Many engineering stories are being covered by science or technology writers, which can muddy the engineering message. The same is true for engineering communication more generally. In the academic setting, it is commonplace for funding bodies to make public engagement compulsory for their grant holders, but the same perhaps can’t be said for engineers in industry.’

‘So how can engineering be communicated better? Engineering communication should be recognised by industry and academia as a necessary element of the job, with adequate funding and resources dedicated to training engineers to equip them with the skills required to get their message out there,’ Anna explained. 

Engineers devise creative solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges of our time, and the industry is rapidly evolving. Sunny Bains, technology journalist and Editorial Director of Engineering Inspiration, explained we must help journalists conceptualise engineering, to get people talking about the breakthroughs, and to aspire the next generation.

‘There are a lot of things scrambling for attention, so why should engineering be represented in the media,’ refuted Geoff Carr, Science and Technology Editor for The Economist. ‘Journalists do not exist to sell engineering to the public, nor to get young people in to engineering. We are writing for our readers, and not our sources,’ he said.

Rob Bell, Television Broadcaster for Channel 5, claimed ‘Part of the challenge we face is the perception of engineers and the way we view engineering. Media can’t change this perception on its own, we need help from industry and professionals.’

Engineers need to spot their own successes and report these. There are also an immense number of stories that are crying out for engineers to offer technical information, and the industry needs engineers to collaborate with journalists to get these big stories.

 

If you would like to share a news story with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), please contact Amber Trower amber.trower@iom3.org