Star-Studded Panels Featured at IALJS at AEJMC Washington, DC

In early August, IALJS sessions at the annual AEJMC sparkled with insight on two panels featuring a mix of accomplished world-class scholars. Washington, DC was the site of last year’s conference, which hosted two full sessions dedicated to the theme of “The Art of Fact in Science and Nature Writing.” The sessions marked the last assembled by IALJS at AEJMC Program Coordinator David Dowling, who has served in that capacity since 2020. Melissa Nurczynski will take the reins for the next three years. IALJS-sponsored research papers at DC addressed efforts to bend existing journalistic forms to meet the demands of changes in the scientific and natural worlds. Panelists variously considered narrative journalism’s promise of delivering deeper understandings of science, technology, and nature writing.

The first session of the 2023 meeting began with a fascinating talk by Karen Masterson titled “Who Will Speak for the Trees? Peace in Liberia and a Re-emergence of the Foreign Bulldozers that once Buried this Country ‘under the Dirt of Progress’” engaging her influential research and reporting on the cultural impact of industrialization in AfricaMunachim Amah then presented on “Storytelling for Social Justice: Global News Coverage of Forced Eviction of the Otodo Gbame Waterfront Community in Nigeria,” an enlightening examination of a low-income waterfront community in Lagos that was flushed out by the Lagos State Government in 2017. Pablo Calvi’s “The Big Picture and the Small Scene: Anna Tsing’s Assemblages and Capitalist Survivalism vs. Paul Engle Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop, and the Nature In Between” offered a powerful examination of aesthetic approaches to nature writing. I then presented my paper (co-authored with Subin Paul) exploring “Neocolonialism and Science Journalism: The Case of India’s The Wire.” The final paper of the panel was delivered by April Eichmeier on the topic of “The Art of Fact in an Age of Intuition.” This provocative presentation explored the politics and culture of audience understandings of science and nature journalism. 

The second session began with Micah Bateman’s engaging talk, “‘Where Nature Has More Finely Wrought’: Freneau’s Republican Air.” As a professor in the School of Library and Information Science with an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Bateman provided a unique vantage point on this key moment in cultural and political understanding of geography via airspace and advances in aeronautical technology. Bill Kovarik then delivered important findings on the ethical reach and historical depth of science and environmental journalism. His presentation titled “Teddy bears and mind bombs:  Locating Historical Themes in Science and Environmental Journalism” built on his extensive research that provides much of the foundation of his influential Revolutions in Communication (Bloomsbury), a book that is currently in press for its third edition. Raleigh Darnell then presented “The Inconclusive Present in Humboldt and in Science” based on his stellar article published in Literary Journalism Studies. The panel concluded with my reading of in absentia-panelist Susan Swanberg’s moving and poignant paper “Is Nature Writing Obsolete?”

The next IALJS at AEJMC will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania August 2024. 

David O. Dowling

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