When we launched The Open Notebook in October 2010, our goal was modest: to conduct a series of intermittent interviews with writers whose work we admired. It wasn’t long before we started hankering to do more, but TON was a side project for both of us—we only had so much time to give to this labor of love.
Luckily, our timing was good. Just a few months after we launched, the National Association of Science Writers began its Idea Grants program, and TON was among the first beneficiaries. NASW’s generous support (along with donations from TON readers) enabled us to begin hiring writers to do interviews and report features, and it freed us to tackle new ideas, like an advice column, a database of successful story pitches, and writer profiles. In the last four years, we’ve published more than 50 in-depth interviews with leading science, environmental and health journalists; about 30 reported features on specific elements of the craft of science journalism, such as finding and sharpening ideas, pitching stories, handling unreliable sources, taking effective notes, identifying an effective narrative structure, and weaving exposition into narrative. More than 100 writers and editors have given guidance to their fellow journalists via our advice column, Ask TON, and our series of one-minute videos, Single Best. Dozens have contributed query letters to our pitch database, which now contains 80 successful pitches. Some intrepid souls have allowed TON readers a glimpse into their workspaces and daily routines, through our Natural Habitat and A Day in the Life series.
Last year, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund awarded us a grant to launch a fellowship program for early-career science journalists. Since January, our first two fellows, Tina Casagrand and Tiên Nguyễn, have worked with TON mentors Kendall Powell and Alexandra Witze to create almost a dozen reported features and interviews, on subjects such as conducting data journalism, writing nut grafs, creating radio and podcast scripts, and writing headlines.
Today we’re delighted to say that both NASW and BWF have decided to provide continued support to TON. Over the next year, with NASW’s funding, we’ll be able to publish about a dozen more interviews and reported features and another dozen Ask TON columns (which are now being edited by the talented Rebecca Boyle), as well as assorted other resources. And BWF’s funding will allow us to offer two more fellowships for beginning-level science writers (stay tuned for an official call for application information soon).
We’re genuinely thrilled to partner with NASW and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and very grateful for their continued support.