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There's nothing like the introduction of four top editors to quiet a room of science writers. This year, editors from the New York Times, Scientific American, Sierra, and Wired formed the panel of the Pitch Slam, a fan favorite at the annual NASW workshops. Writers, eager to hear insider tips and witness on-the-spot feedback to story pitches, packed the room in October in Palo Alto, the site of ScienceWriters 2008.

If any reporters sitting in the session "Turning the Tables: Meet the Press Critics" have had a piece panned by one of the critics present, they didn't speak up. The three panelists, who participated in ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto, instead enjoyed a cordial environment in which they explained how they think science journalists are living up to their responsibilities — and how they're not.

Science writers who wish to adapt to the digital age have two fundamental questions to answer: What new skills do I need? And what equipment do I need to buy? Panelists at this session of ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto — organized by Tabitha Powledge — discussed how multimedia can enhance stories, how to get started with going digital and how to choose the right laptop computer.

From the blogosphere to Silicon Valley and back, technology impacts both the way we write and the topics we can cover as science writers. In a session called "Geeks, Freaks and Deadlines: Writing about Technology and the Humans Who Love It" at ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto, panelists advised, admonished and cajoled the science writing audience to be creative in their use of technology — as both topic and medium.

First, use a tripod. That was Melissa Lutz Blouin's take-home message about making video, which she delivered during a session on the topic at ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto. "Your production values shoot up!" she exclaimed. The cost barriers for video have dropped from the days of $60,000 shoulder-mounted film cameras, but as anyone who has shot with today's $2,000 cameras knows, there is more to getting a professional result than just using professional equipment.

Science writing for kids is a diverse field, teeming with opportunities for freelancers. That was the theme of "Science Writing for Kids: Skills and Markets," one of the workshops held during ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto. A panel of editors of science publications aimed at young people offered advice on pitching to their publications, as well as general advise on writing for this audience.

"Pitching a story is part art, part science, part intuition — and a lot of luck," Lisa Rossi told the more than 40 attendees at "PIO Pitch Slam: Packaging, Delivering ... and Placing the Story," one of the workshops held during ScienceWriters 2008 in October at Palo Alto. Rossi, director, of communications and external relations for the Microbicide Trials Network at the University of Pittsburgh, co-organized the session with Karen Kreeger, senior science communications manger at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The workshop featured tips for public information officers who pitch to newspapers, magazines and electronic media.