Media Seismic Certificate Course

Media Seismic Certificate Course: An Earthquake Training for Journalists

Earthquakes are one of the most challenging type of story for an outlet and their journalist to cover. They happen without warning and give you no time to prepare. Your audience is afraid and demands information from a trusted, credible source. But the earthquakes are also complex geologic phenomena, and the scientists who understand them – and have information that could be very reassuring – struggle to explain these complex phenomena to someone without any base of information on which to build an understanding.

This certificate program aims to fill some of that gap and prepares the participants to be able to more effectively find and provide the information the public will need during and after the next major earthquake and subsequent impacts. In three sessions, we will examine:

1. The Science

Everything that matters for journalists from that “Earthquakes 101” class you never took in college.  You will learn what does it really mean when we talk about epicenters, hypocenters, magnitude, faults, P waves, attenuation, ground motions, sedimentary basins, and more. We will present California in a new way, showing you the faults and tectonics that create the geography of the Golden State. You will  understand why earthquakes are impossible to predict and be able to recognize why we are so susceptible to believing predictions in spite of this.

2. The Impacts

Although the time of an individual earthquake is unknowable, the likely impacts are very predictable. By the end of this session, you will be able to estimate the most likely and significant impacts from just the magnitude and location of an earthquake. You will understand the source of damage, where to look for it if it exists, and what could likely happen next because of it. This session will also continue to reinforce some aspects of the science related to aftershocks, fault ruptures/displacement, and secondary impacts like landslides, liquefaction, and potentially wild fires and flooding.

3. The Response

As a journalist, you’ll understand how to use the information from the first two sessions to be ready to get the best story in the next event. This will cover aftershocks, both how to stay safe in an aftershock and how to estimate where and when they will occur, as well as fault offsets and how to find and explain them. We’ll also provide insights and practice on asking the questions most likely to get you an intelligible answer from a seismologist and other earthquake response professionals, as well as other officials as you seek to get the information most useful to your audience.

Each session, offered virtually, lasts approximately two hours and is a mix of presentation, discussion, and activities among the attendees. The three sessions are held weekly for three weeks with “assignments” given after the first and second sessions. To complete the program to receive the certificate, participants are asked to complete a final “project” in the form of a simple story, planning guide, or other activity to be proposed and accepted by the course instructors. Upon satisfactory completion of the course, participants receive an official course certificate from the Dr. Lucy Jones Center valid for 24 months.

This course is designed and delivered by noted seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones and her colleagues at the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society. It is open to any active journalist or staff member of a news outlet. Course fees cover materials including the Center’s updated CA Earthquake Reference Guide for Journalists. For more information and to sign up, please contact us.