Gift funds new Gene Media Forum at Syracuse University

September 09, 1999

Forum will help journalists to expand their reporting of the genetic sciences

Editor: Gene Media Forum co-directors Alan McGowan and Donald Torrance are available for interviews. McGowan can be reached at (212) 271-1958, and Torrance can be reached at (315) 443-4232 or (315) 449-9629.

SYRACUSE--Genetic research is creating a revolution in science, and the complexity of the issues involved is creating an increasing challenge for reporters, according to the co-directors of Syracuse University's new Gene Media Forum.

The Forum, created by SU's Newhouse School of Public Communications, is funded by a substantial grant from JGS, Inc., "The Joy of Giving Something," for the purpose of aiding public understanding of genetic science and its social, legal and political implications.

The Gene Media Forum will provide access to national experts on genetic science topics and develop workshops for science reporters. It plans to maintain and make available to journalists digitized files of animation, photos and videos to accompany gene research stories. Other plans include developing a website as a resource for accurate, comprehensible information about genetic research; lobbying to expand coverage of genomics in the media; and fostering University-based research into the state of public understanding of genomics and the role of the news media in that process.

The Forum's president and co-director is Alan McGowan, an expert in science communication and former president of the Scientists Institute for Public Information (SIPI). Another aim of the Gene Media Forum, says McGowan, is to make sure that issues arising from genetic research are fully debated. "We want to ensure a fully informed public to participate in decisions that must be made about this exciting science," he says.

"It is clear that genetic research, especially gene sequencing, is revolutionizing the life sciences," says Donald Torrance, associate professor of broadcast journalism and documentary filmmaking in the Newhouse School and the Forum's co-director. "It has implications for every other human endeavor--ethics, finance, family planning, race relations, the arts. But as science becomes more complicated, science reporting becomes more challenging."

Torrance and an assistant, along with SU student workers, will be based at the Newhouse School and work mainly with broadcast journalists, while McGowan will be based at SU's Lubin House in Manhattan and work with print journalists. McGowan will be aided by Fred Jerome, a consultant who works with scientists and science journalists, and an administrative assistant.

Torrance is a documentary filmmaker, journalist and producer specializing in science. He has worked for "Science Times," the New York Times science television news magazine; National Public Radio; Science magazine; and The Nature Conservancy Magazine. His film work includes "Keepers of the Keys," a documentary on the decline of the South Florida seascape; and "Year 150," a documentary about the growth and influence of American science.

Including his work with SIPI, McGowan has spent more than 30 years working with the journalistic and scientific communities. He is also a Yale-educated engineer who has done graduate work in physics. He is a fund-raising, media outreach, and program development consultant whose clients have included the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the Alfa Project: The Cooperation Channel, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the Lighting Research Center. He serves as the North American editor of Science Progress, as a contributing editor of worldlink, and as executive editor of Environment magazine.

Syracuse University

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