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The mediator's meeting. Editorial treatment of scientific information on the Franceinfo branch

Numerous scientific teams are mobilized in France to understand how the Sars-CoV-2 virus works and the immune response it causes. (MATHIEU PATTIER / SIPA)

Since the start of the health crisis, listeners' mail has been largely dominated by questions related to the editorial treatment of the coronavirus. The extraordinary nature of this pandemic requires new reflections, even new journalistic reflexes. It even has an influence on the organization of newsrooms.

Emmanuelle Daviet, mediator for Radio France: At franceinfo, for example, you are creating a “science, health, environment, technology” pole this fall, you are leading this pole.
What is his mission ?

Olivier Emond: head of the new environment and technologies department at franceinfo. Its role is to answer all these questions, especially on health issues, to explain. There are six journalists in this hub, including journalists who already deal with these issues of environment, technology, health. There was already a person on health, Solenne Le Hen, who took care of these subjects, and on her own.

We saw it with what fell on our heads in the spring, it was very complicated to be able to provide both the antenna, because franceinfo is a feed antenna – you have to be on the air often – and then also to work in the field, to meet specialists, in short, to do his job as a journalist, reporter. So we had to provide support to Solenne, so it was Anne-Laure Dagnet who joined him on these issues. Then the environment part with Anne-Laure Barral and Etienne Monin. For questions of technology, Jérôme Colombain, who is no longer presented. And I, who am here to try to help everyone, a facilitator to organize it all.

Emmanuelle Daviet: How do you publicize scientific talk? This is a question from the listeners: are all medical points of view, the different scientific voices heard on your antenna?

Olivier Emond: I think so. We also hear from city doctors, if we stay on the medical issue of Covid-19, which takes up a lot of time and space on the air. We hear on our antenna, both city doctors and pharmacists, researchers, epidemiologists, virologists.

We're trying to ask the right person, on the right subject. A virologist is not an epidemiologist, a city doctor is not an epidemiologist. So we try to talk to the right person about the right problem. This is not always easy, because this is an area where there are things that can intersect, and there are interesting things that can be said by both sides as well. This means that you have to contextualize a lot: who is speaking, how does he speak, where he speaks and why he speaks? That's not to say that a doctor can't talk about the vaccine problem, but he's not going to talk about it the same way, he's not going to talk about the manufacturing aspect of the vaccine. But he can talk about the look, how people come to talk about it in his office.

But overall all points of view are in agreement on franceinfo. So these conflicting views will be delivered to the listeners.

Listeners wonder about the coronavirus figures being broadcast on the air. Some only hear the number of people who tested positive for Covid, for them that does not reflect reality. What are the instructions given to the editorial staff?

The same instructions as for any subject that we cover in writing. That is to say, from data, from facts, to tell yourself how I make it intelligible to the listener and the general public. For example, we have raw data, data on the number of positive cases tested each day, this figure in itself does not mean much. Why ? Because there may have been more testing, so we're trying to find data that really means something.

For example: the incidence rate, the number of positive cases reported in a given population, which there, when it evolves, it means that the virus is circulating more. The idea as always is to recontextualize things: is it meaningful? Doesn't raw data lose people more than anything else? In short, we have to be careful and do our daily journalistic work.

To go further, franceinfo and Olivier Emond offer a series of podcasts: They are going to take down the moon.

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