This site is no longer updated.

Current Vassar news can be found at; otherwise you can browse recent archived news items.

Science writers and EPA official to discuss how the press covers environmental health risks, featuring New Yorker and NPR reporters. Tuesday, April 8, 2008

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — How does the media present the complex and controversial issues surrounding environmental health risks?

A group including science writers and an EPA official will seek to answer this question in "Reporting Environmental Health Risks: Perspectives from Scientists and Journalists," a panel discussion on Tuesday, April 8, at 5:30 p.m., in the Villard Room of the College Center. Panelists will include New Yorker magazine science and technology writer Michael Specter, Ira Flatow, host of National Public Radio's Science Friday, Sharon Friedman, Director of the Science and Environmental Writing Program at Lehigh University, and Environmental Protection Agency Program Coordinator L. Earl Gray. This event is free and open to the public.


As the award-winning host of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday, Ira Flatow brings listeners a lively discussion on science, technology, health and the environment. As NPR's science correspondent from 1971 to 1986, he reported from sites like the Kennedy Space Center, Three Mile Island, Antarctica and the South Pole. In one memorable report, Flatow took former All Things Considered host Susan Stamberg into a closet to crunch Wint-O-Green Lifesavers, proving they spark in the dark.

Flatow discusses the latest science stories on a variety of television programs, including the Cablevision program Maximum Science. His numerous TV credits also include six years as host and writer for the Emmy-winning Newton's Apple on PBS, science reporter for CBS This Morning and CNBC, and host of the four-part PBS series Big Ideas. Flatow's writing has appeared in various magazines, including the Los Angeles Times, Current, ESPN Magazine, and American Lawyer. Additionally, he is also founder and president of TalkingScience, a nonprofit company dedicated to radio, television and online projects that make science approachable.


Vassar graduate Michael Specter (class of 1977) has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since September 1998. Previously, he wrote for the New York Times, where he was a roving correspondent in Rome covering topics as varied as Michelangelo's Florentine Pietà and the spread of AIDS in Africa. In 1995, he was appointed co-chief of the Times Moscow bureau, and while in Russia he covered the war in Chechnya, the 1996 Russian presidential elections, and the declining state of Russian health care. Specter also wrote for the Washington Post from 1985 to 1991, where he was the paper's national science reporter, and later the New York bureau chief. Specter has received much acclaim for his work, winning the American Association for Advancement of Science Journalism Award in 2002, and twice receiving the Global Health Council's Annual Excellence in Media Award.


At Lehigh University, Sharon Friedman is the Associate Dean for Faculty and Staff in the College of Arts, as well as Professor and Director of the Science and Environmental Writing Program in the department of Journalism and Communication. From 1994 to 2004, she directed Lehigh's Environment and Society program, and until 2006, was curriculum director for the undergraduate Environmental Studies program for the Environmental Initiative. Friedman is the current vice chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the International Food Information Council Foundation, and an editor at Science Communication.

Friedman's research focuses on how scientific, environmental, technological and health issues are communicated to the public. She has conducted research on risk communication and on mass media coverage of such risk issues as the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, Alar, radon, dioxin, electromagnetic fields, and nanotechnology.


L. Earl Gray is a research toxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and an adjunct professor in the department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at North Carolina State University. Previously, he was a member of the National Toxicology Program's bisphenol A expert panel, which found "minimal concern" for BPA's ability to affect adult reproductive health. Additionally, Gray has participated in televised scientific forums, presenting his research on programs such as NewsHour on PBS.

This event is sponsored by the Vassar program in Science, Technology, and Society.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, April 1, 2008