When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States in spring 2020, political leaders, state officials, and media pundits struggled to explain what was happening and how members of the public could protect themselves from this deadly disease. There was widespread misunderstanding of the scientific method among the American public, and recommendations from government officials were muddled and sometimes contradictory. While hindsight is always 20/20, how scientists communicate in a crisis—and how the public receives that information—can be a matter of life and death.
To remedy that, Christopher Reddy, senior scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and faculty member of the institution’s joint oceanography program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote a book called Science Communication in a Crisis: An Insider’s Guide. He recently spoke with YES! Racial Justice Editor Sonali Kolhatkar on Rising Up With Sonali about navigating these essential but complex communications during a crisis.
The views expressed here and on Rising Up With Sonali do not necessarily reflect the opinion of YES! Media.
Sonali Kolhatkar is currently the racial justice editor at YES! Media and a writing fellow with Independent Media Institute. She was previously a weekly columnist for Truthdig.com. She is also the host and creator of Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. Sonali won First Place at the Los Angeles Press Club Annual Awards for Best Election Commentary in 2016. She also won numerous awards including Best TV Anchor from the LA Press Club and has also been nominated as Best Radio Anchor 4 years in a row. She is the author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence, and the co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women's Mission. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights, 2023). She has a Master’s in Astronomy from the University of Hawai’i, and two undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. She reflects on her professional path in her 2014 TEDx talk, “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host.” She can be reached at sonalikolhatkar.com