Sunday, February 28, 2010

Do what they say, not what you do

Howdy. As part of my independent study into science journalism, I was hoping to put together a short for-journalists article with a few tips and thought-provoking tidbits. If you could give me any feedback/critiques, anything at all, I would truly appreciate it.

The first draft is after the jump...

Friday, February 19, 2010

And now for something completely different...

I know the best blogs are thematic, regular, and organized. But today, I just can't help myself.

As an assignment for my MA Journalism program meant to sharpen our skills for integrated newsrooms, our class was divvied into beats. We were set free on the city to produce print, radio and video stories about our beat, with the stories (hopefully) finding their way into multiple forms of media.

Being stuck into the Arts & Culture beat, I didn't really have a damn clue what was going on in the city. I like music, I like concerts, and I like books, but other than that I'm hopelessly lost.

I took it upon myself to be the camera/editor guy for my group's video. We wanted to have a lot more fun than your standard news report, and this was the result ....

The rest of the work can be found on our lovely squarespace page.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting the point to the public

an argument for framing in science journalism

I am aware that I'm about to step into a full on forum war *dons his flame-retardant lab coat*, and that as a student I may be passing far beyond my area of expertise. However, I need to take issue to a post by DrugMonkey today. 

His post was mostly concerned with anonymity on the internet, but what bothered me was this:

Poor Matt Nisbet takes his lumps around these parts because his academic field is spin, sorry framing. This is the process within professional communication whereby the strictest and most precise depiction of the current state of knowledge about objective reality is...undervalued. Undervalued relative to driving home whatever broader themes and ideas the communicator happens to favor. Undervalued relative to rounding up votes on "your side", regardless of why such voters may favor your position.

I just launched into an independent study project to figure out how to do science journalism properly. One of the concepts that resonated most strongly, as someone concerned with effectively explaining science to the public, is framing. DrugMonkey's idea of equating framing to spin, and of communicators only pushing for 'votes', seems to belittle the role of science journalists. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

America Round-Up!

Want to know what happened today, all nicely tied together with an extremely loose joining thread? Here are three stories of things that happened to.... Americans!

It's been a busy day for our closest neighbours. Some are getting trapped, and others are being freed. Here's what's happening to our American friends today!

Mr. Endeavour goes to the ISS

I've been following the whole shuttle/constellation/ISS affair quasi-closely. So it was a pretty cool surprise to walk into today's story meeting and be told;

"You're doing a story on the space shuttle."
And, with my timeliness news-hat on, my first question was, "What about it?"
"Well it docked with the ISS this morning."
"So what?" I said.
"I don't know, but give me a minute and a half on it."
"Sure thing Mr. Editor man."

I took this as an opportunity to tell the masses (all 10 people in my class, and whoever stumbles upon this post) about the fate of the shuttle, and how we're essentially screwed to get people to the ISS in the near future. But now I'm just giving too much away, so.... here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shedding light on a new paradigm of science writing

Or, how to avoid stupid mistakes and actually be a good science journalist

So today I officially got clearance to start an independent study project for my Masters of Journalism program. As I unfortunately found out after I came to Western, the Science Journalism course is only one of the possible electives. And, it turned out to be a no-go for this year. 

But all hope is not lost! I'll be diving into the literature, and conducting interviews journalistic research with science writers who I think are super-cool to try to figure out the best field in the world. 

The project will, hopefully, yield rewards not just for me, but for everyone who is/wants to be a science journalist. Hopefully.

The theories on how people learn science from the media are pretty fleshed out, and that's what I want from the academic-types. But the question it brings up is, does it really work? Sure it's how people learn from media, but they still have to read/listen/watch the thing first.

So that's where I turn to the science journalists. What works? What leads? What did you do to finely craft your best story? If I want people to learn about something, first I have to make them care. Because if they don't care, they won't stick around.

Or maybe I've got it all wrong, maybe my job isn't to try to teach. Maybe my job is to find the "awe" and inspire interest, as the New York Times found out. At any rate, I'll be using this blog to track the progress of my project, and share my findings.

So, to the people on this list (and maybe some who aren't), consider yourself warned, I'm coming for you:

David Dobbs
Carl Zimmer
Thomas Levenson
Andrew Revkin
Jay Ingram
Candis Callison
Nicola Jones

Oh, and wearing a lab coat to the interview might make researchers feel more comfortable, but maybe I should avoid wearing this one.

Illustration by David Parkins, Nature via