Mission

Why We’re Here

The Open Notebook is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to help science, environmental, and health journalists at all experience levels sharpen their skills.

Science journalism is changing, but the ability to recognize and sharpen important ideas, ask incisive questions about complex subjects, and tell accurate, compelling stories—often on shorter deadlines and with fewer reporting and editorial resources than ever before—remains essential. The best science, health, and environmental journalists do not merely translate the latest scientific discoveries into lay language, but provide nuanced context and critical analysis. Well-trained journalists can explain how a new finding fits into previous research, why the research matters, and where important tensions and debates lie. And they shed light on the human characters behind the findings, understanding that scientists are fallible and scientific advancement is cumulative.

Such expert synthesis and critical analysis take thoughtfulness and skill. The Open Notebook is the only online resource dedicated to science journalism as craft.


 What We Do

  • In our Story-Behind-the-Story Interviews, The Open Notebook asks science journalists to deconstruct their working process, from inception to completion. These features, edited for length and clarity, also typically include supplementary materials such as pitch letters, notes, outlines, draft excerpts, edits, and other behind-the-scenes resources that illustrate how one story evolved over time.
  • Our Reported Features focus on specific elements of the craft of science journalism, from finding ideas to taking good notes to writing effective ledes—and much more.
  • Our Brief Guides, written by veteran journalists, offer authoritative guidance on the essential elements of different story forms.
  • In the Storygram series, a collaboration with the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, experienced journalists provide in-depth annotations of award-winning science stories (along with Q&A interviews with the authors). Our goal is to show what makes the best stories great.
  • The Open Notebook’s Ask TON advice column invites our audience to privately submit craft-related questions, which we then pose to experienced writers and editors, allowing journalists of all experience levels to tap into the expertise of their peers. 
  • Our Single Best series provides quick nuggets of winning advice.
  • Part practical guidance, part writerly voyeurism, TON’s Natural Habitat audio slideshows visit science writers in their working spaces—from home offices to coffee shops to  hammocks—and invite them to share the accoutrements that help them do their best work.
  • TON‘s A Day in the Life series asks science journalists to break down the habits and tricks and must-have tools that get them through the day.
  • Our Office Hours series invites journalism instructors to share the insights they’ve gleaned as teachers.
  • The TON Pitch Database is a searchable resource containing almost 150 successful news and feature queries to a wide range of publications. This unique tool gives science journalists the opportunity to study the first—and often the most difficult—step in producing outstanding science stories.
  • Our fellowship program for early-career science journalists is funded by a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The six-month TON/BWF Fellowship provides an opportunity for early-career science journalists to develop their skills by conducting story-behind-the-story interviews and creating reported features for publication at The Open Notebook.