If a company would award all-expenses-paid holiday trips to a small number of selected journalists to cover its annual meeting and have a pre-arranged interview with its CEO, calling it a ‘press scholarship’, it would be obvious to most people what was going on: corporate PR dressed up as journalism, in plain daylight, that is.
Certainly you would not expect such a scheme to be administered and promoted by an organization that is dedicated to ‘promoting best practices in science journalism’.
Yet very similar schemes are currently playing out, with for example the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) administering so-called ‘press scholarships’ and the European Union of Science Journalists’ Assocations (EUSJA) doling out ‘travel grants’ to journalists willing to be paid to attend award ceremonies or events.
“The WFSJ is pleased to announce that two journalist [sic] are invited to attend the Award Ceremony of the 2020 [**] Prize and [**] Prize, as well as related events to take place in Bergen and Oslo (Norway), from 2-5 June, 2020,” says a recent WFSJ announcement, distributed through its member associations.
“The grants cover travel expenses, hotel accommodation, and meals. An interview with the [**] Laureate and/or the [**] Laureate may be arranged if requested. The recipients will be selected by the WFSJ [..].”
The EUSJA announcement enthusiastically talks up an event in Heidelberg, Germany, highlighting the organizers’ offer of ‘a limited number of travel grants to enable journalists to report on this compelling networking event.’ The grants cover travel costs and a week of boarding and accommodation.
Neither of the announcements disclose whether or how much WFSJ and/or EUSJA benefit from promoting these events by the organizers.
To be sure, WFSJ and EUSJA are not the only associations to proudly wear the mantle of ‘journalism’ while practicing various types of PR. They are just two typical examples of science journalism and PR getting very mixed up these days.