By Junaid Seedat, Former Senior Program Officer in Communication, Information and Education for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
Scientists don’t always spend energy talking to the media closest to the people and the communities we’re working with. South Africa has an incredible history with community radio, and yet rarely do you see people in new prevention technologies actually engaging community radio, community theatre, or community media. I think that if we want to have the media support our efforts, we need to focus on community media as well as mainstream media. As researchers, our focus tends to be on journalists we can take for coffee or out to dinner, those who are close to our homes and don’t cause us any inconvenience. I think that the whole issue around guinea pigs and other sensationalist issues is based on the community members who just weren’t well informed. Research teams need to train media spokespersons who speak the local language and invest in developing materials that are simplified while remaining accurate and respectful to community audiences. The best way to fight against sensationalism originating in communities is to use community-based media.