Friday, March 5, 2010

Clearing up Misinformation

There has been some misinformation recently regarding newsroom credentialing policies for journalists covering the AAAS Annual Meeting.

For the record, bloggers who do original reporting and adhere to the standards of traditional science journalism are welcome at the AAAS Annual Meeting. AAAS respects and appreciates the role of bloggers in communicating science broadly.

AAAS traditionally has offered complimentary newsroom credentials to a broad group of career science communicators, including working reporters, producers, editors, and freelancers as well as public information officers for universities and research institutions, journalism professors and journalism students. All career science communicators who are members of the National Association of Science Writers are eligible to receive complimentary press badges at our meeting, one of the most generous standards among science organizations.

AAAS does not issue newsroom badges to representatives of lobbying, special interest or advocacy organizations. Similarly, scientists, scientific journal editors, advertising or marketing professionals and investment analysts must register as general attendees and pay the fee.

We have offered newsroom badges to bloggers and will continue to assess their credentials on a case-by-case basis.

Bloggers must meet the same criteria mentioned above: they should not have dual affiliations as marketing professionals, lobbyists, representatives of advocacy groups, or journal editors. The online world continues to evolve and our newsroom policies will evolve as well.

In the case of Bora Zivkovic, he had already received a meeting credential as a speaker affiliated with the journal PLoS. This did create some brief, initial confusion about his status when he arrived in the newsroom headquarters in San Diego. AAAS Senior Communications Officer Earl Lane has reported that he questioned whether Mr. Zivkovic was a journal editor. Mr. Zivkovic offered assurances that he was a member of the communications staff at PLoS. "We offered him a newsroom credential on that basis," Mr. Lane reported.

Mr. Zivkovic's blog post about his experience did not include reporting about the AAAS newsroom policies, which are online here, He also did not ask AAAS staff about the prohibitive cost for AAAS, a nonprofit science organization, to provide universal Wi-Fi access at the San Diego Convention Center.

AAAS was pleased to be able to pay for free Wi-Fi within the reporters' coffee lounge. A "AAAS Newsroom Update" flyer and a poster in the newsroom headquarters noted that registrants could get the access code from newsroom staff. AAAS also provided dozens of hard-wired Internet connections in the press technology work room. The free Wi-Fi seemed to become oversubscribed at a times; AAAS staff will be looking into this issue as they plan for the next year's Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

AAAS regrets if Mr. Zivkovic had an experience that was in any way uncomfortable for him; we look forward to his blogging about the 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting.

Ginger Pinholster, Director, AAAS Office of Public Programs
March 5, 2010