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Targeting future journalists

Friday, 25 Nov 2016

Part of the mission of Cochrane South Africa is the dissemination of information on Cochrane and evidence-based healthcare (EBHC) to health stakeholders and the South African public. An obvious channel for such dissemination is the media. Cochrane South Africa decided to commence work at a basic level by targeting journalism students who are potential future health and science writers, and to introduce them to the concepts of EBHC and systematic reviews, the Cochrane Library and other useful resources for developing future media products.

The first two workshops were held in March and April 2016 at the Faculty of Journalism, University of Stellenbosch and included 26 Journalism Honours students.

After a process of contacting all the communication, journalism and media studies departments at universities and colleges the University of Stellenbosch indicated an immediate interest in organizing a workshop for their Journalism Honours students and it was decided to use this opportunity to pilot the concept and materials.

Two 2-hour sessions were organized with a month’s gap in between allowing students to complete a homework assignment.

The topics covered included

  • introduction to EBHC;
  • introduction to systematic reviews;
  • introduction to Cochrane; and,
  • using the Cochrane Library.

These were approached using a variety of learning techniques including interactive lectures; videos; case scenarios and exercises; practical demonstrations; and, small group work.

In the first session the students were introduced to a case scenario, shown how to find information on the review in the Cochrane Library and asked to discuss in groups how they would use this information for print media, TV, radio and Twitter.

At the end of the first session they were given six review topics and asked to prepare as feedback for the class the steps they took to find the relevant evidence from the Cochrane Library, what the overall findings reported, their analysis of the evidence and their plan for how they would use this in a story. At the second session volunteers presented their work for discussion.

Future plans

The University of Stellenbosch indicated a desire for an annual workshop for Honours students and potentially a further workshop for Masters students.

Now that the process has been piloted and evaluated it will be further refined. Further negotiations are also being undertaken with other higher education institutions in South Africa regarding offering them similar workshops.

Michelle Galloway, Cochrane South Africa

This news story was first published in the Cochrane South Africa newsletter, Volume 18 (No. 1) July/August 2016