What People Are Saying

The Open Notebook has become a science journalism textbook.” ~ Carl Zimmer, author, journalist for the New York Times, Scientific American, National GeographicDiscover, and others, and creator of the Discover blog The Loom

David Dobbs, author and contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic, National Geographic, and others, and creator of the Wired blog Neuron Culture, calls The Open Notebook “the Paris Review of science journalism.”

Amy Harmon, Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent for The New York Times, writes: Proper praise for The Open Notebook would first observe how essential good science writing is to a functioning democracy, and how few resources exist to develop it. It would then note how TON‘s emergence from out of the blue as the hub that I and every other science writer I respect gather at to discuss our stories and hone our skills underscores its uncanny sense of how to fill that need. But if you really want to know my favorite thing about TON, it is the selfish pleasure of having a fellow-science writer ask me questions about a process that I labor over and the realization that there is a sizable audience interested in the answers. TON contributor David Dobbs did a Q&A with me about my story about a young man with autism seeking independence: in the months since that story ran, I have spoken about it at perhaps a dozen science journalism classes — and ALL of the students have read the Q&A. I’ve discussed it with colleagues after editors at the Times posted the link on our internal Web site, and I often point readers who email with questions about the story to TON, where they have already been answered.

“No one else is doing what The Open Notebook is doing: They’re taking a hard look at the process behind exemplary pieces of science journalism and, through frank, in-depth conversations with the authors themselves, helping all science journalists improve their craft.” ~ Michelle Nijhuis, contributor to SmithsonianHigh Country NewsOrion, and to the blog Last Word on Nothing

“I never went to journalism school so I can’t say for sure, but The Open Notebook strikes me as an ongoing journalism seminar as valuable as any you might find there. The best way to learn about journalistic storytelling—besides writing stories—is by taking great narratives apart. The Open Notebook goes a step further, taking us back to the pitch letter, the assignment, and everything it took to get a big piece landed. The focus may be on science, but the lessons found here can be applied to any story.” ~ Evan Ratliff, founder and editor of The Atavist and contributor to WiredThe New YorkerNational Geographic, and other magazines.

Holly Stocking, retired science writing professor at Indiana University in Bloomington and author, with the writers of The New York Times, of The New York Times Reader: Science & Technology, writes: “From the moment I set eyes on The Open Notebook, I regretted that I was no longer teaching science writing.  I harbored this regret because I would have used it in a blink…the web site contains invaluable lessons on understanding and interpreting science, delivered by highly talented professionals.”

“Writing is a lonely art. The vast majority of the process, from coming up with ideas to structuring a piece, is carried out in solitude. When you start out, you barely have a clue about what you’re doing, let alone what seasoned professionals get up to. Getting those pros to deconstruct their own methods for all to see is a massive boon to aspiring science writers.” ~ Ed Yong, science journalist and creator of the Discover blog Not Exactly Rocket Science

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist, and University of Wisconsin science journalism professor Deborah Blum: “The Open Notebook illuminates science writing—and by that I mean excellent science writing—like no other resource available today. Here you’ll find some of the best writers in the profession explaining everything from the technique to the research methods that help create a great story. In fact, TON‘s exploration of outstanding writing is so incisive that I use it in all my writing classes. It helps professor as well as student understand the craft.”

Brian Vastag, Washington Post science reporter, writes: “Nothing beats the experience of finally reporting and writing the big story. But readingThe Open Notebook is a close second. Peeking behind—way behind—the curtain at big-time outlets like The New York Times Magazine and Discover,The Open Notebook is a beacon and a reality check for freelance writers of all kinds—especially science journalists. For hustling freelancers, nothing replaces the valuable intelligence of learning how a publication operates and what types of stories they need…Seeing pitch letters and drafts of award–winning long-form science writing? I’ve never seen that before—The Open Notebook is a unique resource.”

The Open Notebook just gets better all the time.” ~ George Johnson, New York Times science journalist, author, and co-founder of the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop

Laura Helmuth, science and health editor at Slate magazine and vice president of the National Association of Science Writers, writes: “The Open Notebook is an incredibly generous project, a gift to the science writer community. The TON interviewers pick some of the most innovative and engaging recent science features and ask writers just the right questions. Everyone involved—the TON creators, the interviewers, the writers who reveal their methods—is helping teach the rest of us a master class in science writing.”

“It’s almost like therapy, telling Jeanne and Siri the true (and sometimes maddening) story of what really went on behind the scenes with one of your articles. And they put it all together, with annotations, in a way that makes for chewy reading for everyone, novice and old-timer alike.” ~ Robin Marantz Henig, author and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.

“Each time I visit the site, they surprise me with fantastic interviews with a broad range of science writers from every medium. They go to the top-tier writers and ask them questions that we all wonder about but never have the time, guts, opportunity to ask them ourselves…I am always asking writers to dig deeper and get more from their sources; to move their piece from superficial to contextual and insightful. The writers that are featured in The Open Notebook talk about how they make the effort to do just that.” ~ Cori Vanchieri, Science News features editor

Steve Silberman, freelance science writer for Wired and other magazines and creator of the PLoS blog Neurotribes, writes: “Most websites on media focus on ephemera: Who’s in, who’s out, mergers, layoffs, and corporate gossip. The Open Notebook is a rare, shining exception. Aiming to serve as a kind of ars journalistica for working science writers, the site lays bare the elements of craft that determine a story’s lasting impact. By interviewing those who have distinguished themselves in the fields of science reporting, feature writing, blogging, and multimedia, The Open Notebook transcends hackneyed print vs. digital dichotomies to deliver tips, advice, and food for thought that can be directly put into practice in today’s hyper-competitive freelance environment. The site also offers something that’s harder to define but just as essential: a sense of collective ethics and joy in our hard work. I love The Open Notebook.”

“I’ve been a science journalist for more than 20 years, and I can unequivocally say that The Open Notebook is an invaluable resource for reporters and writers in our profession. Nowhere else can science journalists get the inside story on how to do our jobs better in this changing journalistic landscape.” ~ Alexandra Witze, correspondent for Nature, contributing editor for Science News, and author of Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of Laki, the Volcano that Turned 18th-Century Europe Dark

On the National Association of Science Writers’ blog “On Science Blogs This Week,” science journalist Tabitha Powell writes: “If you write about science and haven’t yet made the acquaintance of The Open Notebook, check it out asap.”

Ivan Oransky, who among other things teaches medical journalism at New York University’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program, says: “I often tell my students to think about what they’d like to be doing five years from now, find people who are doing that thing, and figure out how they got there. The Open Notebook is a great archive of all of those tales, told assignment by assignment…I recommend the site to science writers at every stage of their careers.”

The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media writes that The Open Notebook “offers science reporters and the subjects of their reporting valuable ‘back story’ insights into the science writing craft.”

Science News medical science reporter Tina Saey writes: “The Open Notebook takes the mysticism out of great writing, showing how others have solved their seemingly intractable problems and gives me escape strategies to try the next time I encounter a wall blocking my writing.”

The Open Notebook provides a valuable resource for science writers. The sample pitch letters, essays on craft and writer interviews offer readers a peek behind the scenes.” ~ Christie Aschwanden, freelance science journalist and contributor to The New York Times, Slate, Men’s Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Runner’s World, and the blog Last Word on Nothing

The Open Notebook feels like a compendium of the juiciest reporting backstories I’d normally have to pick up from colleagues in bars or at journalism conferences. Reporters I know and reporters I wish I knew share their successes and failures with surprising candor… Peeking over colleagues’ shoulders should help The Open Notebook‘s readers improve their own work.” ~ Lucas Laursen, freelance science journalist and contributor to Science, NatureScientific American, and other magazines

“It’s so educational to peer into the heads and processes of other science writers. We may have informal discussions about some of these topics online or in person at meetings, but that’s not nearly as informative as probing into the working habits, frustrations, and trouble-shooting setbacks for specific writers and their pieces.” ~ Kendall Powell, freelance science writer and contributor to the Los Angeles Times, HHMI Bulletin, Nature, and others

The Open Notebook is really inspiring for magazine writers like myself who want to think beyond the deadline churn and look for ways to break through to the next level.” ~ Charlotte Huff, freelance science and medical journalist and contributor to Cure, the AARP Bulletin, and other publications

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