When we started The Open Notebook in 2010, our goal was to provide science journalists with tools and resources to help them sharpen their skills. Over the years, we’ve looked at how to find story ideas and how to figure out whether they’re viable—and how to pitch them. We’ve covered how to report on disability, how to conduct interviews in treacherous field conditions, and how to talk to sources who would rather shut the door in your face. We’ve covered how to write ledes and kickers, how to build elegant transitions, and how to write flashbacks. We’ve covered how to respond to a rejected pitch, how to negotiate for better freelance rates, and how to handle the emotional toll that some kinds of reporting can take. We’ve interviewed more than 150 journalists to learn the stories behind the stories we admire. All told, we’ve published more than 500 articles. We’ve also created courses and mentoring programs and workshops and…oh my!
We’re proud to be able to offer so many resources to help science journalists improve their skills—and, we know it’s a lot to take in! If you’re wondering where to even begin on your TON journey, we have some suggestions for starting points. Wherever you begin, we feel confident that where you will end up is the same place we have: With gratitude for the more than 2,000 journalists who in one way or another have shared their insights and experiences with us, so that others can learn.
If You’re Just Getting Started
- Read our Tip Sheet for Newcomers to Science Writing, which offers 10 key tips for anyone covering science, whether science is their regular beat or whether they’re a general-assignment reporter who has just been assigned to cover a science story for the first time.
- Dig into the Getting Started in Science Journalism collection, which showcases a subset of TON articles that are especially relevant to people who are new to science writing, or are just thinking about getting into the field and wondering what it’s all about. Learn about how to break into the field, how to find and pitch stories, how to report and write well, and how to become part of the science journalism community.
- Pour a cup of coffee and crack open our On the Origin of Science Writers collection, in which dozens of science writers share their science writing “origin stories”—and a tidbit of advice for newcomers.
- Peek into the working lives of science writers by browsing our A Day in the Life collection of mini-profiles.
If You Want to Dive Deeper into Questions of Craft
- Our story-behind-the story interview series and our Storygram series, in which we annotate exceptional stories and interview the authors to learn about how they did it, could keep you busy for weeks. For example, read Michelle Nijhuis’s interview with The New Yorker’s Kathryn Schulz about her blockbuster 2015 story “The Really Big One,” which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. Or study our annotation of Ed Yong’s chilling 2019 Atlantic story “North Atlantic Right Whales Are Dying in Horrific Ways”—then read Nadia Drake’s interview with Yong to learn how he reported and wrote the story.
- We’ve published hundreds of reported articles on many aspects of the craft of science journalism, from reporting on retracted papers to finding and using quotes in science stories to expanding the geographical borders of your source list. Dive in anywhere, and see where your curiosity takes you. Or, treat our trove of articles as your textbook: Start at the top and work your way through! (Want some TON goodness in an actual book? Check out the book we published in 2020, The Craft of Science Writing! A second, expanded edition will be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2024.)
- One of our most enduringly popular articles, published in 2011, is all about how not to pitch stories to editors. In this piece, veteran editors discuss common mistakes freelancers make when trying to sell story ideas, and dish about “the most horrible, ridiculous, epic-fail pitches” they’ve ever seen.
- Speaking of pitching, check out the TON Pitch Database, a collection of some 300 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.
If You’re Looking for More Learning Opportunities at TON
- Want to dive deeper into a topic such as finding story angles, pitching stories, or spotting hype and misinformation? Consider taking one of our free Science Journalism Master Classes. These online courses are delivered by email and are available to anyone, anywhere in the world.
- Learn about our mentoring programs and if you’re eligible, consider applying for one of them.
- Sign up for a workshop or one-on-one consultation with TON editor-in-chief Siri Carpenter.
If You Want to Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Check out our resource page on finding diverse sources for science stories, guide to tracking source diversity, and sample script and survey to use in tracking the diversity of your sources.
- Use this guide to using alt-text to make images more accessible.
- Draw on this curated collection of diversity style guides for journalists.
- Dig into our Diverse Voices in Science Journalism article series. In this series, a collaboration with the National Association of Science Writers Diversity Committee, we aim to examine the experiences, expertise, and perspectives of science journalists from communities that are underrepresented in science journalism. We’ve examined topics such as covering Indigenous communities, navigating newsrooms as a minority, writing about one’s own disability or chronic illness, reporting on health disparities, and much more. Find still more articles that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion elsewhere on our site—for example, we’ve covered topics such as reporting on disability, reconsidering who is an expert, reporting on “unsung” histories of science, and freelancing on a student visa in the U.S.
- Find our full collection of diversity, equity, and inclusion resources here.
¡Si Quieres Leer TON en Español
- TON en Español is our collection of dozens of popular TON articles translated into Spanish. Si prefieres leer nuestros artículos en español, dirígete a esta colección.
There’s a lot more to explore. We hope you enjoy your stay!