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Notes from the #NABJ13 Science Journalism 101


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NABJ 2013 Science Journalism 101 Panel

  • Ivan Oransky, Global Editor Director, MedPage Today (Former Executive Editor of Reuters Health)
  • Danielle N. Lee, Science Blogger, The Urban Scientist of The Scientific American Network
  • Jamila Bey, Radio Show Host pg The Sex, Politics And Religion Hour: SPAR With Jamila, AM 1390 Washington, DC and AM 1430 New York City, Washington Post blog, She the People
  • Robin Lloyd, News Editor at Scientific American
  • David Kroll, Director of Science Communications, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC, Teaching Associate Professor of English (Journalism), North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

According to our session moderator (Jamila Bey) this session was historic – the first of its kind in the history of the National Association of Black Journalists.  Perhaps the first such workshop formally, but I discovered a small but passionate crew of journalists and communicators who were very interested in communicating science, health, and environmental news to broader and more diverse audiences. People were very excited about the topic…and still are.

Science Journalism 101 Workshop for NABJ 2013
The African-American community’s relationship with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has been fraught with challenges. 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 targeted at this audience. Additionally, lack of news coverage by Ethnic News organizations on important topics such as energy, the environment, technology, product safety, personal health and other science topics is partly due to the unease general news reporters may have in covering science-intensive stories. This workshop will focus on helping reporters cultivate relationships with key scientists and engineers, and provide a list of media-ready African-American scientists and engineers.

There were many gems shared at the panel. Here are some notes on Science Journalism from our awesome panel presenters. If you are a journalist interested in sharing engaging stories about science, technology, engineering, mathematics — STEM — or health, environment, and medicine, with broader, diverse and traditionally under-served audiences OR if you are an editor or producer affiliated with an ethnically diverse media market company and you are interested in featuring more STEM, health, medicine, and environment news at your organization, then we would love to connect with you.

Dr. Robin Lloyd didn’t present any slides but her advice was all gold and in my opinion a perfect primer for student journalists or seasoned journalists who cover more general/lifestyle topics who want to break into a new beat.

Dr Llyod’s Some secrets of science journalism (in no particular order)

  1. If you enjoy discovering valid, reliable, accurate knowledge and information that will stand the test of time — knowledge that is empirically grounded — then science reporting may be the perfect fit for you.
  2. You don’t have to be a science, math, or tech whiz to write an excellent science, health or tech news story. Please throw away the elitist attitude that only those who did well in organic chemistry can report on science
  3. Some of us get into science journalism, covering science, because it’s more fun and rewarding over time than covering cops, crime, politics, entertainment, business and sports – the bread and butter beats. [Not to mention that science journalism touches on and informs all those – informs them all and gives us new angles on those beats that can be quite revealing of background and the big picture.]
  4. Science tends to hold more radical implications for social change and social thought, and tries to describe reality and gets much closer to it, on average, than other attempts to understand our natural, physical and social worlds.
  5. Readers, listeners, viewers are more interested in science science and what to know more – sometimes they aren’t consciously aware of it. Question anyone who says your audience isn’t.
  6. The one topic that people find more interesting than celebrities is themselves. One quick way to ensure you don’t lose your reader is to use people’s lived experience to hook them into scientific questions, narrative, explainers and investigative stories.
  7. “Balance” can be used to misrepresent the state of knowledge on a topic. e.g. Climate change. No when hunting down a  few (hard-to-find) detractors are a waste of time and disservice to your readers.
  8. How to find consultants and sources for science reporting?
  • Local universities, local museums, local schools, local nature centers and reserves.
  • National Professional Organizations and Science & Engineering Societies
  • Public Information Officers/Public Relations/Media Relations personnel of these institutions organizations can supply you with a list of individuals who study X,Y, Z issues. You can even ask for source who is female or African-American or comes from ___ background.

Two excellent guidebooks for science journalism:

A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers, by Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson and Robin Marantz Henig:

The Science Writers Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish and Prosper in the Digital Age, by the Writers of SciLance, Thomas Hayden and Michelle Nijhuis

 

 

Covering Medical Studies: Tips and Tricks (my NABJ presentation) from Ivan Oransky

 

Science Journalism – Henrietta Lacks reporting – NABJ 2013 – David Kroll from kroll001

(I especially love slides 13-18. It shows science news stories from Ebony and Jet magazines from 1976!!!)

NABJ 2013 Science Journalism 101 Workshop from Danielle Lee
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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