[Coral-List] Some thoughts on how to tell the bleaching story

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Wed Jan 7 22:13:10 EST 2015

Hi Ellen,
Thanks for those supportive comments.
I fear there is a minority (hopefully not large) of the public that cannot 
be reached - the flat-earthers, the people who think the world is 6000 
years old, etc.  I don't even try anymore to pitch stories at their level.
I also think the media, for the most part, do a poor job of reporting 
science in general, always wanting controversy, even manufacturing (or 
presenting as equal two camps that are far from equal) opposing views when 
necessary.  This has made it immensely difficult for the scientist to 
present information dispassionately, and many of us then fall into the 
trap of overstatement in order to try and get our points across.  Overall 
this erodes the quality of communication.  (I have no solution to this, 
other than to recognize it as a problem and talk about it)
And yes, we scientists have mostly not learned very well how to tell a 
story that engages the listener.
Peter Sale
sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com

From:   Ellen Prager <pragere at earthlink.net>
To:     Steven Miller <smiller52 at gmail.com>
Cc:     Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>, coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Date:   01/07/2015 10:26 AM
Subject:        Re: [Coral-List] Some thoughts on how to tell the 
bleaching story

Dear Steven and Peter

Good points from both of you. In addition to the need to get the story out 
in a way that engages a broader audience, we also need to find new and 
effective vehicles to do it. I also agree wholeheartedly that we need to 
be better storytellers - thus my new middle grade fiction series 
highlighting ocean issues and the many speaking engagements I've been 
doing focused on ocean science and storytelling.

But how do we reach the uninformed or uncaring public? I work with the 
news media and they are not interested unless it is timely "news", related 
to an observable crisis, disaster or of course, celebrity scandal, wedding 
or baby (Ugh!).

In addition to the right and effective vehicles to reach a broader 
audience, I suggest we also need to focus more on relevance. How is coral 
reef decline related to the every day person's quality of life, health, 
job….what the average person can relate to. I wish more people related to 
the importance of coral reefs or oceans for that matter, but a large 
percentage of the population does not.

I have a blog coming out soon (I hope) about the connections between the 
ocean, coral reefs, and fighting disease.

Thanks to both of you for bringing up the communications issue. I am with 


Dr. Ellen Prager
Earth2Ocean, Inc

On Jan 7, 2015, at 8:26 AM, Steven Miller <smiller52 at gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Peter

Have you read Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical 
Thinking? It's Randy's second book and it provides a framework for how 
to communicate that was missing in his first book.

If you want to tell the coral reef story, then you need to change HOW 
you communicate, not WHAT you communicate.

In science, we tell our stories with way too many ANDS.

And then I did this, and then I did that, and here's Figure 1, and 
Figure 2, and Figure 3, and Tables 1-10, and this is why they are 
important, and we ran these tests, and we need more funding.


We need to get out of our "heads" to connect with the guts and hearts of 
the public.  One way to do this is to change HOW we tell our stories.

Coral reefs are in trouble, AND there's no doubt that it's getting 
worse, BUT not all is loss because amazing places still exist, THEREFORE 
read Randy's books to learn how to communicate more effectively before 
it's too late.

And, But, Therefore.

It's that simple.  And that hard at the same time.  There's even an App 
to help.

And frankly, Randy doesn't need to discover anything.  Coral reef 
colleagues need to discover Randy Olson.

Best regards

Steven Miller
Nova Southeastern University
Oceanographic Center

On 1/6/2015 4:29 PM, Peter Sale wrote:
Hi all,
For want of a better way to welcome the new year, I spent some time
thinking about how we can tell the story of coral bleaching more
effectively than we have been.  I fear our message is becoming "old news"
and is not resonating with enough people.  My thoughts on this are at

I encourage others to work on building better stories too.  Its time for
Randy Olson to discover that his 'coral reef colleagues' are capable of
telling an important story effectively.

Best to all for 2015.
Peter Sale

sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com
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