Vidusara at 25: My interview on science communication (in Sinhala)

Vidusara at 25 – web banner from Facebook Group

The weekly Sinhala science magazine Vidusara, a publication of Upali Newspapers Limited of Sri Lanka, completes 25 years this week.

Sustaining any publication for that long is no mean accomplishment, so everyone involved – journalists, editors, publishers – deserve congratulations.

The current editor has done an interview with me for the 25th anniversary issue, which is out today. In it, I discuss the challenges faced by all science communicators, but especially by science journalists working in the developing world. The interview is in Sinhala. Here it is, in pdf, in parts 1 and 2.

විද්‍යා සන්නිවේදනය හරිහැටි සිදු වීමට මාධ්‍යකරුවන් හා විද්වතුන් යන දෙපිරිසේ ම වගකීම් සහිත දායකත්වයක්‌ අවශ්‍යයි!

Science Communication interview with Nalaka Gunawardene – Vidusara, 7 Nov 2012

Science Communication interview with Nalaka Gunawardene Part 2 of 2 – Vidusara, 7 Nov 2012

I had a marginal involvement in Vidusara at its very inception, in late 1987, which was within a few months of my entering journalism. I take no credit for what the publication has accomplished, and am sometimes exasperated when long-standing readers associate me with it. But after clarifying such nuances for years, I now accept the inevitable association!

In May 2011, there was an online discussion about my role in science communication on which published my video interview with its editor Sanjana Hattotuwa. See: ICTs, science fiction and disasters: A conversation with Nalaka Gunawardene

As reader comments warranted, I responded as follows:

Vidusara 25th anniversary issue – cover 7 Nov 2012
Vidusara was launched in 1988 [correction: it really was in Nov 1987] by Upali Newspapers Limited as an experiment in popular science communication. I was at the time working as a science correspondent for that company’s English daily, The Island, and the managing director asked me to advise and guide the new publication. I welcomed this as I was a bilingual writer (Sinhala and English). However, the founder editor of Vidusara was extremely apprehensive about my association with his project and went out of his way to exclude me. I have never tried to understand or analyse the reasons for this; such insecure and insular mindsets are far too common in Sinhala language journalism, even today.

“All in all, I must have written no more than 10 – 12 Sinhala science articles to Vidusara during its first few months of publication in 1988. When I compare that to the several hundred I’ve published in The Island (1986-1995: none of it available online) and many dozens for other English language media outlets – print, broadcast and online – over the years, my writing in Vidusara represents only a very small proportion of my combined media output. However, I must have done a few things well in those articles for discerning readers to remember and refer to it more than two decade later. I’m naturally pleased with such reader recollections.

“It also reminds me that we who work in the public space don’t get to choose how we are remembered. Our audiences will form their own impressions, and select their own memories.”