Archive for the ‘Elements of Craft’ Category

Tackling the physical sciences

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    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 […]

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The first critic is you: Editing your own work

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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 […]

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Covering the environment beat

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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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Dispatches from fact checking

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  I am a magazine fact checker. This is how I describe my job: “I verify and put a check mark above every single word in an article. If it is incorrect, I put a box around it and suggest a fix.” It sounds boring, but it rarely is. At its finest, fact-checking is a […]

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Nailing the nut graf

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Writing a nut graf can feel like showing your work on a math test or stopping at traffic lights when no one’s around. Ask journalists about how they constructed a nut graf, and some might actively avoid the question: At least three of the journalists I interviewed for this article talked first about characters and […]

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Weaving a seamless tale from threads of narrative and exposition

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Many moons ago now, more than I care to remember, I had come from India to study for my master’s in computer science at the University of Delaware in Newark. All foreign teaching assistants, and I was one, had to undergo training on the intricacies of teaching American students. And as part of that training […]

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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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