Archive for the ‘Elements of Craft’ Category

Writing revealing stories based on unreliable sources

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  This conversation began with another one. And that one began with a reprinted chapter of Will Storr’s book on people who were unpersuadable — that is, whose beliefs didn’t match agreed-upon reality but were nonetheless fixed. In this chapter, excerpted in Matter as “The Itch Nobody Can Scratch,” the fixed beliefs people had were that […]

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Data Journalism: A Primer for Science Journalists

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Did you ever know someone who was devastatingly handsome, made great conversation and whom everybody talked about even after he left the room? That’s kind of how I think about good computer-assisted reporting (CAR), also often referred to as data journalism. These projects turn spreadsheets into insightful infographics, support stories with concrete context, get passed […]

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Track changes: Making the switch from writer to editor

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  Writers and editors don’t always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes those differences can make it feel like they simply don’t understand each other. But many editors come to their jobs after spending many years as writers, and they bring that experience with them when they take on their new roles. Last week, five writers-turned-editors participated in […]

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How to Prepare for the ScienceWriters2013 Power Pitch

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The Power Pitch session at ScienceWriters2013 will give writers a chance to connect face-to-face with editors from 11 different publishers and publications. The session will be held Saturday morning from 11:15AM to 12:15PM in Century ballroom A. But you will have to sign up beforehand. For information on how to sign up, go here. In […]

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How to ace a 300-word story: An interview with Roy Peter Clark

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It happens again and again: The assignment calls for 300 words. I write the perfect story — in 800 words. Then I’m fighting to cut the damned thing down to size. My search for a better way led me to writing coach and Poynter Institute scholar Roy Peter Clark’s newest book, How to Write Short: […]

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Pictures and Prose: When photographers and writers work together

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Dominic Bracco photographs fishermen after a long day of work on the eastern Sea of Cortez. * Modern journalism was built on teams of photographers and writers heading off together to report stories back to the reader in pictures and prose. We asked a roundtable of writers, editors and photographers to discuss the value of […]

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Butterfly On A Bullet

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It was the best of assignments and the worst. My editors John Carroll and Ashley Dunn at The Los Angeles Times asked me to take readers behind the scenes of the largest and most public accident investigation in U.S. history — and one of the most heavily covered national news events of the 21st century  […]

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The big leap: From article to book

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Hannah Nordhaus’s 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament tells the story of troubled honeybees through one beekeeper. The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments is George Johnson’s look at … well, 10 beautiful science experiments. In The Sports Gene, David Epstein examines the debate over nature vs. nurture in the world of sports. These books all have something […]

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The art of the essay

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People tell me that I write essays. I think they’re probably right — except that I’ve never been exactly sure what an essay is. When I think essay, I think five plodding paragraphs about the use of light as a symbol in The Scarlet Letter. Or I imagine much more experienced, serious writers picking up […]

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Are you an editor or a writer? Part II: The editors.

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Writers and editors work together all the time, but the two clans are somewhat mysterious to one another. Mutually suspicious, even. How do you know which career path you should specialize in? And how do editors become editors, anyway? Ann Finkbeiner and Laura Helmuth asked several journalists to describe the differences between writers and editors.  […]

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Are you a writer or an editor? Part I: The writers.

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Are you an editor or a writer? How do you know? What are the crucial differences between the two specializations? The question arose when Slate science editor Laura Helmuth was visiting a class that Ann Finkbeiner teaches at the graduate program in science writing at Johns Hopkins University. Ann, hoping to help her students figure […]

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Post-Slam Dunk

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The great thing about a Pitch Slam is that everyone benefits from courageous writers who conquer their nerves enough to pitch an idea, at a microphone, in front of a room full of their peers and a panel of editors from top publications. By any measure, the Pitch Slam at ScienceWriters2012 was crammed with outstanding pitches […]

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