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NABJ Proposal: Science 101 for Journalists or So, You want to be a Science Writer?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Still a little groggy from my return from Africa, I came across a serendipitously came across a tweet – A Call for Proposals for the 2013 Annual Conference of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). With less than 2 days to prepare, I reached out to people – science friends and was approached by new online friends – journalists who happen to be member of NABJ. And I cranked out two proposals, for the conference, both an effort to attract J-school students to science journalism.

I submitted 2 proposals – one an introduction to science writing and another about health science news reporting to under-served audiences.  Here are the details from the first proposal.

Workshop:  Science 101 for Journalists or So, You want to be a Science Writer?
Track: Fundamentals

Abstract
The African-American community’s relationship with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has been fraught with challenges.  For example, children from African-American (as well as Latino) and low-income families score lower in standardized tests on science and math than white counterparts.  At the college-level, African-Americans received 7 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4 percent of master’s degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. One barrier to participation is lack of knowledge about these topics.  Opportunities to report on recent discoveries at local colleges or by African-American scientists has largely been overlooked by the media, including media outlets, targeted at this audience.

Reporting on topics related to climate change, pollution, health, and new biotechnology job opportunities can be overwhelming to general journalists, many of whom may lack the training or background to cover science-related topics.  Moreover, the lack of diversity among science journalists is apparent and the variety and level of discourse on these topics is greatly missing out on important voices.  This workshop will provide an introduction to how journalists interested in covering science-related topics including bringing more in-depth science coverage to general news stories.  The panel will also introduce opportunities for science journalism training and discuss job opportunities related to science journalism.

Summary
Science is the foundation of our very lives. Whether we aware or not, but understanding our bodies, our health and nutrition, as well as the dynamics of the environment – both the natural and constructed world – are about processes. This is science.  Cultivating an environment that creates more minority science journalists that write or present from different viewpoints and angles is key to bringing under-represented groups like African-Americans, women, and other minorities to the opportunities provided by science and technology. I envision a diversity of journalists that write about research, discoveries, and profiles of people in all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for both major and regional press outlets – magazine, radio, newspaper, television, internet.   Moreover, being a member of academic, scientific, and African-American communities affords me a great vantage point.  I see opportunities for connections that could transform how science is shared with the entire public. Helping journalists, both novice and experienced, embrace the opportunity and importance of science journalism for reaching minority audiences is the goal of this workshop.

Slated Participants for the Panel included:

Veronica Mills – A Communications Coordinator for an International Humanitarian Organization and former member of NABJ
Veronica Mills was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She attended Florida Agricultural & Mechanical School of Journalism 2005-2009. She interned with the U.S Department of Agriculture in New Orleans and Miami for two consecutive summers, as a Bio-technician Aid (assisting research). The next summer she landed an American Association for the Advancement of Science internship with Science Magazine. Her senior year of college she was Copy Desk Chief for the university newspaper. Upon graduation, she moved to Washington D.C . to work as a Multimedia Associate for the American Geophysical Union. She also sourced information and wrote articles for the National Science Foundation. Veronica is currently consulting as a media specialist for various science and health-based non-governmental organizations across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Robin Lloyd – a News editor for Scientific American
Robin Lloyd is Scientific American‘s news editor, responsible for editing and assigning online stories and managing Scientific American‘s home page (www.scientificamerican.com). She also manages Scientific American‘s social media activity on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Previously, she was a senior editor for LiveScience.com and SPACE.com, where she co-managed a team of several reporters and interns. She has additional experience in print journalism (Pasadena Star-News); wire journalism (City News Service in Los Angeles); and network online journalism (CNN.com). She was a National Association of Science Writers board member 2010-2012, and currently chairs NASW’s Program Committee, which evaluates proposals for grants that serve the careers of science writers. She has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the 1998-1999 academic year.

Emily Willingham, Science Writer and Editor for Double X Science and Forbes
Emily Willingham is co-founder and managing editor of DoubleXScience and a former biology professor. She seeks to improve science literacy in part by targeting women who may find something interesting and go forth and share it with others within their orbit. Her writing has appeared at Slate, Forbes, Scientific American guest blogs, and The Scientist.  Her work focuses on how science filters to consumers and how consumers make decisions about science. Frequent honorable mentions: autism, parenting, and the news media.

I received immediate notification that it was received.

Thank you for your proposal submission, Science 101 for Journalists . Your submission ID is 60. Proposals will be accepted until Wednesday, October 17, 2012.
Proposals will be reviewed based on the following criteria:

Is the topic innovative and relevant?
Is the session well organized and designed to meet the needs of this particular audience?
Are the session objectives and “takeaways” for participants clearly explained in the proposal?

As I stated in my post yesterday, Is there a way to get more science news in the Black Press? I presented this proposal as one approach – engage Black Journalists and communicate with them the need to communicate science and educate them on the professional opportunities in science journalism.  I’m not sure of the exact numbers but I am aware that the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) does not have a very diverse membership.  And I wonder, is this approach to engage minority journalists an effective strategy? I would really like to engage NABJ or UNITY Journalists, as well as NASW members in this conversation.  Please share your thoughts. How could I strengthen this proposal? What other professional conferences should I have proposed this to? Are there additional panel members I should have considered?

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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