SOJC students’ podcast explores experiences of wildfire

Oregon Dept of Transportation crews assess damage from the Almeda Fire

How do we live with fire? Multimedia producers and journalism students Noah Camuso and Eden McCall had that question. They spent a year pursuing answers, and the result is The Fire Story Season 2, a five-episode podcast series that features the science, experts and people who are grappling with issues of fire in Oregon.

Camuso and McCall took advantage of the resources from the Center for Science Communication Research within the School of Journalism and Communication and worked with the Northwest Fire Science Consortium and the Institute for a Sustainable Environment. Their goal was to uncover the complex stories of living with wildland fire and provide established and emerging communication professionals and the public with a more nuanced understanding of wildfire’s multiple dimensions.

Intended for all Oregonians, the series aims to increase their awareness about the state’s wildfire issues and, most importantly, potential avenues for solutions. Listeners need no prior knowledge about wildfire, and each episode provides a depth of information about wildfire science, homeowners insurance and the country’s history of natural hazard preparation to engage even those with extensive wildfire policy knowledge.

The first season of The Fire Story podcast looked at wildfire and the public’s connection to it through media and science communication. It brought together wildfire experts from diverse backgrounds to discuss the science of communication during a fire event, fire preparedness techniques, the complexities of wildfire response, and how communities and the landscape recover after a fire. 

One goal of the Center for Science Communication Research is to teach students evidence-based communication techniques and the craft of scientific storytelling to help them better communicate their research and its impacts to key stakeholders, including policymakers and the public. Along with lessons learned in the classroom, students have ample opportunities to access experiential learning opportunities, such as that undertaken by McCall and Camuso—producing a story-based podcast.

“Getting hands-on experience is an invaluable addition to classroom work for students developing their science communication skills,” said Hollie Smith, associate professor of science and environmental communication. “Through these opportunities, students can work with mentors and our organizational partners, refine ideas, and publish something that hopefully adds value to the conversation.”

—By Jenny Brooks, School of Journalism and Communication