Audience is Key

There are always people giving things away on the street and normally I either pick up everything that is offered to me so that my bag is filled with more leaflets than shopping items, or nothing at all. It was the title of this free magazine that caught my eye though, mainly because it had the word ‘DISEASE’ written in bold on the front and I’m currently doing a degree in microbiology. I did wonder why so many people were ignoring these people holding a free read in each hand, but when I got home I realised that the core of the magazine was the messages of Jehovah’s Witnesses and some people are not as open to religion as they should be.

When I began reading the article about how to prevent disease I was expecting it to be aimed at the audience that they were handing it out to on the pavement; even the front cover shows a mother and her daughter walking in a market somewhere in the UK. It was a bit confusing when they started telling me about how to treat my water so it was safe to drink, how to avoid diseases like malaria and how to prevent being bitten by venomous animals. Some parts were aimed at people in countries like the UK but the odd mix would maybe make it hard for a reader to understand what applies to them. I felt like they were talking to me but telling me completely irrelevant information!

I thought after reading it that the writers might want to inspire people in developed countries to help those in developing countries to reduce the spread of disease. They’ve included a section at the end of the article to tell people about the things that Jehovah’s Witnesses have done to help people in developing countries so that people might understand that they are compassionate and have human rights and health at heart.

For me this has been a bit of an education as to what people of religion, and particularly this section of Christianity, think of issues like this. Before this, I’ve only heard odd snippets of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and are interested in. After reading this though, and some of the other articles I can see that religion and science can link together, especially if it is important to human health.

Unfortunately, I feel like most people will just ignore the people giving them magazines and be really closed off and uninterested in the messages that this group of people want to spread; a shame when the message and lesson could genuinely help people! The information useful though, and there are things that need to be brought to people’s attentions. Despite this, everyone has heard the phrase “coughs and sneezes spread diseases” because it has been said so many times and some people no longer take any notice of it. Some people now assume that they have all the facts that they need to live their life disease free. How wrong they are, but when the media is constantly bombarding you with ‘10 new ways to live longer’ or ‘6 things that will reduce your risk of cancer’ it’s hard to filter the gold from the rubbish and easier to turn a blind eye and assume your own knowledge.

Closed off minds like this make me wary of a future in science communication because I find that the scientific community treat and refer to ‘the public’ as a giant, impenetrable body. I think though, that if ‘the public’ is broken up into smaller groups, messages become easier to spread and links between groups can help spread awareness of important topics. I suppose then, that it’s always important to choose an audience for a piece of writing and not try and make it applicable to one that is too broad. When I wrote my book, I aimed it specifically at teenagers and this helped me to structure the storyline to make it interesting.

Maybe I should try and pick an audience for this blog because at the moment I feel like I’m trying to talk to everyone and no one!

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