Archive for the ‘Elements of Craft’ Category

What Is Science Journalism Worth? Part I

The money in this job sucks. Let’s get that out up front. Even from my first days of grad school I knew that a majority of my college classmates working in the corporate and finance worlds were making scads more money than I was—and probably ever would. But, as I smugly told myself, I love […]

On the Scene: Reporting from the Field

Few professions require traveling to places as diverse as the Serengeti, nuclear disaster sites, health clinics, and the homes of strangers. But for science writers, adventure is often part of the job description. Field reporting is one of the best parts of the job—and one of the most challenging. In the course of a field-reporting […]

Surviving the Grind of Fact-Checking

It was a low moment, the kind most writers remember for a long time. I was sitting at my desk, wrestling with a tight deadline, when I received an email from one of my editors. A reader had just written in challenging the accuracy of a description I had given in a recent story. Could […]

Writing for Women’s Magazines

When I tell other science writers that I write for women’s magazines, their reaction is typically something along the lines of “Whoa. What is that like?” Writing for magazines like Glamour and O: The Oprah Magazine and Family Circle is certainly a different experience than writing for Nature—but it’s fun and challenging in its own way, […]

Making the Most of Lab Visits

Any science story depends on getting the facts and figures right. But visiting scientists where they work allows you to move beyond the facts to glean insights into their personalities and passions. A lab visit can reward the enterprising reporter with behind-the-scenes details about how a discovery was made and what motivates the people doing […]

Diversity in Science Writing: A Survey

  For a tribe that loves empirical evidence, science writers have very little data about race and ethnicity among their ranks. There’s no census tallying up the ethnicities of those who do this job. Yet when you look around the room at work, school, or professional conferences, it seems clear that people of color are […]

Four Editors Give Tips on Writing Headlines. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next.

Good headlines achieve balance. They pique the reader’s interest without demanding it, they allude to the story without giving it away, and they give specific details without being technical. On top of that, good headlines should also be “funny, surprising, clear or crisp,” says Laura Helmuth, the science and health editor at Slate. 

Creating Characters on the Page

“There’s no better place to find characters than science,” Erik Vance says. He should know; he makes characters come alive on the page all the time. Vance, a freelance writer based in Mexico City, has covered a wilderness medic who is creating a nasal spray to buy time for snakebite victims, a whale biologist who specializes […]

Smooth Scriptwriting

Like reporters on any beat, science journalists have the option of telling stories through a variety of media. Audio and video provide alternate ways of crafting compelling narratives. But writing for multimedia outlets involves a different set of skills than writing for print. A group of science journalists and producers recently guided TON through the process […]

Tackling the Physical Sciences

Imagine that you are a salesperson tasked with selling a special product. Most people know very little about the product, and many have had a bad experience with similar items. People can’t see what you are selling, and it is unlikely to impact their lives immediately. Such is the plight of the reporter who covers […]

The First Critic Is You: Editing Your Own Work

Self-editing is a selfless endeavor. You cut, replace, rearrange and endlessly re-read—all for the reader’s benefit. “Journalism is all about having a sense of empathy with your audience,” says Dan Fagin, director of the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Toms River: A Story of Science […]

Covering the Environment Beat

Taking on the environment beat is like marrying into a big, colorful family. Environmental reporters need to keep abreast of news in many different niches, including climate change, ecology, ecosystem management, public policy, international relations, business, health, transportation, public lands, water and energy. How can an environmental journalist keep tabs on all these facets of […]

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