Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2005 The Nuts and Bolts of a Good News Story Cheryl Gundy and Lynn Barranger STScI Office of Public Outreach
Components that make up a Hubble news release package Components that make a standard release package extraordinary
Good news release packages equal good news stories Good news stories stand out and will get you good news coverage (headlines) –accurate, comprehensive, but simply written text –constituent parts (something for everyone, no matter what their science literacy or interest level)
Parts of a Standard Hubble News Release Package Press release text Release photo Supplemental images and illustrations Caption Astrofile (background info) Q&A Fast facts
Press Release Text –Written text announcing and describing a finding or discovery. –Usually 2-3 pages long. The language is aimed at news media (print and broadcast reporters) and the general public. –It does not describe a photo, so it can stand alone. –Based on text supplied by the lead research scientist (PI), but rewritten iteratively for news focus and style. New Clues About the Nature of Dark Energy: Einstein May Have Been Right After All The good news from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is that Einstein was right maybe. A strange form of energy called "dark energy" is looking a little more like the repulsive force that Einstein theorized in an attempt to balance the universe against its own gravity. Even if Einstein turns out to be wrong, the universes dark energy probably wont destroy the universe any sooner than about 30 billion years from now, say Hubble researchers.
Release Photo –Photo illustrating the finding or discovery. –The layout can include one or more images with minimal annotation and/or graphics.
Supplemental images and illustrations –Artwork describing some phenomenon associated with the finding. –Could be an artists concept (painting), cartoon, or line art, and may include images and more annotation. –Based on input from the PI and/or consulting scientist –Approved by the PI
Caption –Text that specifically describes the photo –May be some overlap with the press release text. These are images of three of the most distant supernovae known, discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope as a supernova search engine. The stars exploded back when the universe was approximately half its current age. The light is just arriving at Earth now. Supernovae are so bright they can be seen far away and far back in time. This allows astronomers to trace the expansion rate of the universe, and to determine how it is affected by the repulsive push of dark energy, an unknown form of energy that pervaded space. The research team members are: Adam Riess and Louis-Gregory Strolger (STScI), John Tonry (Univ. of Hawaii), Stefano Casertano, Harry Ferguson and Bahram Mobasher (STScI), Peter Challis (Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Alex Filippenko, Saurabh Jha, Weidong Li, Ryan Chornock (Univ. of California, Berkeley), …
Astrofile –General background text, not necessarily specific to the news announcement. –Based on input from the PI or other consulting scientist –Could be a chronology of the research (which cant fit into a 2-page press release) AstroFiles Background information Chasing the Light from an Ancient Supernova: An Astronomer's Adventure Ten billion years ago, when the universe was in its infancy, an aging star in a corner of space took its last breath. This final gasp was a big one, a titanic supernova explosion, which unleashed streams of brilliant light. As the blazing light traveled through space and across billions of years, Earth and its neighboring planets in the solar system were born and evolved. Humankind arose. Astronauts set foot on the moon. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was launched into space. The light was still journeying toward Earth in 1995 when Hubble stared at a tiny speck of sky in the Northern Hemisphere for its farthest look across the cosmos, called the Hubble Deep Field.
Q&A –Questions about the finding are posed and answered in simply written style –Allows an opportunity to add clarification, if necessary Questions & Answers Understanding the discovery 1. What is dark energy? Dark energy is an unknown form of energy that radiates from deep space. It behaves in the opposite manner from gravity. Rather than pulling galaxies together it pushes them apart. 2. Did anyone predict dark energy? Dark energy is a complete surprise. However, Albert Einstein theorized the existence of a repulsive form of gravity in space that would balance the universe against normal gravity and keep it from imploding. Einstein called it the Cosmological constant.
Fast Facts –Specific information about the object/target and the data, such as proposal number, science instrument, exposure date(s), filters for observation(s), image compass for orientation on the sky, and a list of science team members Fast Facts Technical information About the Data Data Description: The datasets used for these results are from the HST programs: 9425 and 9583: Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) 9352: A Riess (STScI), J. Tonry (Inst. fFor Astronomy, Univ. of Hawaii), M. Dickinson (STScI), C. Steidel (Caltech), A. Filippenko and W. Li (UC Berkeley), R. Kirshner (Harvard College Obs.), S. Jha (UC Berkeley), P. Challis (Harvard College Obs.), and S. Casertano (STScI).
Everything posted to the website http://hubblesite.org/news Materials flow to our educational and informal science websites http://amazing-space.stsci.edu http://hubblesource.stsci.edu
Why do we go to all of this effort? Placing science and technology stories in the popular media is pretty tough! We are competing with the daily news (murders, politics, the war, health care issues). Science journalists need interesting stories to sell to their editors. Coverage of science and technology attracts funding from the private and public sectors for research. Science and technology news encourages students to enter careers in science and engineering.
The STScI News Team Greg Bacon, Sr. Animator Lynn Barranger, Video Producer John Bedke, Photo Lab Ann Field, Sr. Graphic Artist Lisa Frattare, Image Processor Cheryl Gundy, News Production Team Lead Zolt Levay, Sr. Image Processor Mario Livio, Sr. News OPO Scientist Ray Villard, News Chief Ed Weibe, Video Engineer Donna Weaver, Science Writer Skip Westphal, Photo Lab
A spice cake recipe is like a good news release package Spice is the key ingredient that makes a basic cake extraordinary. Images and video spice up standard release packages and make them shine. My colleague Lynn Barranger will tell you why video is such a key ingredient.