Journalists will get latest information at Addiction Studies Institute

June 26, 2000

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in conjunction with National Families in Action (NFIA), has announced the inaugural workshop of the Addiction Studies Institute for Journalists, designed to give reporters and editors the latest scientific information about the causes and nature of drug addiction.

Journalists who attend the workshop here Sept. 8-9 will benefit from research at Wake Forest and other top institutions. Wake Forest is home to one of the most-respected drug abuse research programs in the nation; the department housing the program is ranked third of its kind nationally in research funding by the National Institutes of Health in 1999.

The institute will help reporters to better understand scientific processes and research terminology and to translate it into accessible and interesting material for their audiences. The inaugural workshop in September will be designed especially for medical and science writers.

"We want to help reporters learn the scientific language to help them write award-winning - and scientifically accurate - stories," said David P. Friedman, Ph.D., co-director of the institute. "You don't have to be a scientist to be able to speak the language that will get you good stories and help translate science into lay language."

Friedman, an associate professor of physiology/pharmacology and himself a drug abuse investigator, said the idea for the institute grew from research that shows the American public clamors for the latest technical information but often doesn't have the basic scientific knowledge to understand it.

Journalists can help to bridge that gap, Friedman said. "Drug abuse is a huge problem for our society. What we've learned in our research is that it is also an extremely complicated problem physiologically. Journalists need to have the best information they can get."

Many story ideas will result from participation in the institute, Friedman predicted. Although the first workshop is designed for medical and science writers, future workshops will be designed for journalists on other beats, particularly education, criminal justice, medical/health and human interest reporters, columnists and editors.

Participants will be able to spend individual time with top scientists in the field from Wake Forest and other institutions. Core faculty includes internationally known researchers and authors on the science of drug action and drug abuse, and award-winning journalists.

Wake Forest's research programs include the Center for the Neurobiological Investigation of Drug Abuse, the Center for Neurobehavioral Study of Alcohol and the Robert Wood Johnson Substance Abuse Policy Research Program. Sue Rusche, executive director of the Atlanta-based NFIA and co-founder of the

Addiction Studies Institute, said her organization also sees the institute as an opportunity to build collaborations between journalists and scientists. "One thing we hope to achieve through such a collaboration is to jointly establish a set of standards for publishing scientifically accurate information about drugs on the Internet that parallels the high standards set by newspapers and broadcasters. Many web sites have no editors. Anyone can be a 'reporter' and can publish anything, accurate or not.

"We are very excited about having scientists and journalists work together to develop such standards, which we plan to model on the Institute's web site." The program will offer an intensive introduction to the scientific bases of the many issues related to addiction, including topics ranging from molecular biology and neurobiology to epidemiology and policy research. Journalists will participate in case studies and a problem-based approach designed to meet the needs of adult learners.

The program will include visits to labs and demonstrations of scientific processes and equipment used in drug research, such as sophisticated brain imaging equipment and a human-performance center.

The institute will give reporters a bank of resources for future reference via an Internet Resource Center that will include reviews of important papers and demographic and epidemiological data from federal agencies and non-profit organizations. A password-accessible section will offer a discussion forum for journalists and scientists and a listing of expert sources and how to contact them.
Participants must be working journalists, and fellowship support is available. For more information, call 336-716-8502 or visit the web site at . The mailing address is Addictions Studies Institute for Journalists, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1083. The Addiction Studies Institute is being offered through a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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