NASW Board Election Candidate Statements

See the statements of candidates running for office or a seat on the board of directors of the National Association of Science Writers; statements also appeared in the summer issue of ScienceWriters. Officers and board members serve a term of two years, starting January 2007. Members should have received the ballots in the mail. Ballots are due to Diane McGurgan, executive director, by Nov. 30.

Officer Candidates:

President Robert Lee Hotz (Los Angeles Times)

As president, I will continue to seek ways for NASW to bolster its independence. I will work to broaden member services and sustain our excellent professional development programs. Furthermore, I hope to strengthen our Internet operation, which knits together our members in a virtual community.

As for my background, I am a science writer for the Los Angeles Times and shared a 1995 Pulitzer Prize with my Times colleagues for coverage of the Northridge Earthquake and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1987 and 2004. I have three times won the AAAS Science Journalism Award, as well as the Walter Sullivan Award from the American Geophysical Union.

I split my year between New York and Los Angeles. I am married with two sons. We all like to scuba dive.

Vice President Mariette DiChristina (Scientific American)

During the past two years as an NASW officer, I have been fortunate to serve alongside terrific colleagues working to improve the organization. I will continue to energetically pursue benefits for members as vice president.

As Internet Committee co-chair since 2005, I helped oversee NASW's Web site redesign, from hiring the designer to proofreading pages. In 2005, as secretary, I initiated the electronic newsletters, to provide regular updates about board activities. In 2006, I am treasurer.

From 1997 to 2005, I co-chaired NASW's Education Committee and its Mentoring Program, matching more than 250 aspiring science writers with mentors. I helped develop several Ed Comm projects, including Web site informational resources for beginning science writers (in 2001) and for science educators (in 2004), as well as the Internship Fair at the AAAS annual meeting. For these efforts, I was co-winner of the 2004 Diane McGurgan Service Award. From May 2001 through May 2004, I chaired Science Writers in New York. Currently the executive editor at Scientific American, I have been a journalist for about 20 years.

Treasurer Nancy Shute (U.S. News & World Report)

In the past two years I've served both as NASW secretary and chairperson of the membership committee. I've worked to streamline the membership application and renewal process, and helped Diane McGurgan respond to the many questions from potential members. I've worked with the terrific membership commitee to organize a NASW-sponsored workshop on science writing at the Asian-American Journalists' annual meeting, and continued our efforts to expand outreach to other minority journalism groups.

I'm a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report, covering science and medicine. But I've been through many mutations as a journalist — from a small-town newspaper and television reporter in Idaho, on to covering Congress and the Supreme Court, then free-lancing for magazines including Outside, Health, and Smithsonian. In the early 1990s, I founded the first bilingual newspaper in Kamchatka, Russia, on a Fulbright. And I served as an assistant managing editor for US News, directing the magazine's science coverage. Through it all, NASW has been an invaluable source of practical advice, professional insight, and camaraderie.

I'd like to continue to help NASW develop programs that will be useful and interesting to members, while defending the organization's independence and financial integrity.

Secretary Peggy Girshman (National Public Radio)

As the assistant managing editor of NPR News, I oversee (among other tasks) the science desk and "Talk of the Nation." I have 30 years' experience as a broadcast journalist, specializing in science with stints as medical/science producer for the CBS-TV affiliate in Washington, D.C., a producer for "Innovation," and a senior producer for "Against All Odds: Inside Statistics," "Scientific American Frontiers," and "Discover: The World of Science," all PBS science programs. In the late 90's, I was senior medical producer for Dateline NBC.

I was an MBL fellow in 1987 and a Knight Fellow at MIT in 1991. I previously served one term on the NASW board several years ago and am currently on the NASW membership committee. I have judged the Ev Clark, AAAS, Keck Communication, and NASW Science-in-Society awards.

As part of my job at NPR, I am the main contact for freelance reporters; so I am particularly interested in freelance issues, especially in the intriguing question: How does one keep reporting and being a journalist while still making a living?

Board nominees (11 seats available):

Beryl Lieff Benderly (Freelance)

In 2002, through my efforts, NASW joined Authors Coalition of America, which has been a reliable source of income exceeding $50,000 annually. These funds provide travel grants, informational content for our publications and Web site, and other projects that benefit science writers. As NASW's liaison to the coalition, I keep NASW abreast of crucial developments by "attending" monthly telephone meetings and serving on the coalition's distribution committee. Within NASW, I serve on the freelance committee, which I formerly chaired, and have also co-chaired the Science-in-Society Award committee that originated the book prize. NASW has honored my service with the Diane McGurgan Award.

In recent years, the environment for science writing has grown increasingly difficult, both economically and in terms of finding information. In these challenging times, I believe, science writers need NASW to be their ever-more vigorous source of information, education, advocacy, and support. A freelance with five national writing prizes, eight books, hundreds of articles, and a monthly column on Science magazine's website, I hope to continue working to make NASW stronger and more useful to all our members.

Kelli Whitlock Burton (Freelance)

Like many science writers, I was drawn to the field by a love of writing and a curiosity about science and medicine. Since 1990, I have worked as a newspaper medical reporter and as a PIO and magazine editor and writer for a number of universities. I now am a full-time freelance writer and editor based in Ohio and a regular contributor to a number of publications, including the Boston Globe and ScienceNOW! I have bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama and a master's degree from Ohio University, both in journalism, and have taught science writing to undergraduate journalism students. I served as co-chair of the NASW Education Committee from 1997-2004, during which time I co-coordinated the annual Mentoring at AAAS program and helped launch the annual Internship Fair and two Web sites targeted at new science writers and science writing teachers. My co-chair, Mariette DiChristina, and I were honored for this work with the Diane McGurgan Service Award in 2004. During my first term as an at-large board member, I served as co-chair of the Internet Committee, which was charged with the task of creating the new NASW Web site, which launched earlier this year.

The field of science writing has changed tremendously since I joined NASW in 1995 and this is an especially exciting time for our organization. Working with many dedicated volunteers, the board is eager to expand our efforts in the areas of science writing education and mentorship, professional development and advocacy for our members, and public outreach. There are many ways to pursue these interests, and I'd welcome the opportunity to be a part of these activities during a second term on the board.

Glennda Chui (San Jose Mercury News)

After 20 years as a science reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, I recently became editor of the paper's science-health-environment team. I also co-teach the science newswriting course in the UC-Santa Cruz science communication program. I've been a member of the Northern California Science Writers Association pretty much since it started, and have served on its board and as president. With Tom Paulson, I co-chair the NASW Freedom of Information Committee, which keeps tabs on situations that threaten to restrict access to information that is critical to doing our jobs. The committee works closely with the Society of Health Care Journalists, the Association of Health Care Journalists and a national FOI coalition recently set up under the auspices of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Terry Devitt (University of Wisconsin-Madison/The Why Files)

If elected to the board, I will work to ensure the broad representation of our membership and that NASW retains its inclusive character. I am especially concerned about education and that NASW maintain and expand programs to help equip future science writers. Those programs are among our most critical as they provide a gateway to the business and to NASW. I hope, too, to contribute to the continued viability of our programs of professional development and finding ways to help the organization manage change.

I have been an NASW member since 1986 and serve on the Education Committee. I organized the NASW Internship Fair for three years, a position from which I am now retired. My day job is director of research communications for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I have worked for more than two decades. My night job is as editor of The Why Files, a popular online science magazine that I helped found 10 years ago. As I have college-age and near-college-age children, I also work as a freelance science writer.

Dan Ferber (Freelance)

In our rapidly changing business, NASW needs to keep coming up with creative strategies to help science writers and science writing thrive. If elected to the board, I'll focus on helping NASW enhance member services and promote science journalism.

As chair or co-chair of the Freelance Committee since 2004, I've helped oversee several initiatives, including fact sheets on contracts and a slate of panels at NASW's annual conference on topics of interest to freelancers. As chair of NASW's new Grievance Committee, I help members collect overdue fees and resolve other grievances with publishers. I have also served in NASW's mentoring program each of the past six years.

I'm a freelance journalist, a contributing correspondent for Science, and a contributor to Popular Science, Audubon, Reader's Digest and many other magazines. I won an outstanding article award in 2004 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and a feature of mine will be included in the anthology Best of Technology Writing 2006.

Bob Finn (International Medical News Group)

I've had the privilege of being a part of NASW's transition to a more active professional association, first as an enthusiastic member, then as NASW's cybrarian, and finally as a member of the board. During my board service I've concentrated on NASW's Science-in-Society Awards. As co-chair of the award committee I've worked to increase the prestige of the only award given by science writers to science writers. I've worked especially hard this year to assemble a stellar list of judges, and we've decided to announce not only winners but also honorable mentions in each of the five categories. I hope to continue this effort in another board term. I hope to establish an annual Science-in-Society Lecture to be given by a prominent scientist, writer, or public figure, and I hope to increase the dollar amount of the awards. NASW is unusual among writers' organizations in including freelancers, staff journalists, and public information officers among its members. Since I've worked in all three of these areas, I believe that I have a unique ability to represent all of NASW's constituencies.

Tony Fitzpatrick (Washington University in St. Louis)

I am seeking board membership in NASW to maintain and enhance the relationship among the various NASW writers and communicators. I consider the way that we function together to be our organization's hallmark. University science writers are the envy of university colleagues who cover other disciplines because of NASW, which provides an egalitarian fellowship and a host of services that simply does not exist for other writers

I made the switch from teacher to science communicator when Rod Stewart went Disco on us in 1978. Since 1980, I've worked for two major research universities, the University of Illinois and Washington University in St. Louis, but I also have freelanced, and authored a book cited by Library Journal as one of the best science and technology books for lay readers published in 1993. I have worked for science institutions, and have been a member of NASW for nearly 19 years.

At Washington University, I'm proudest of my role in fostering young science writers and in bringing the CASW New Horizons in Science Briefing to my campus in 1993 and 2002.

Jon Franklin (University of Maryland)

I am a long-time science writer known for my innovative stories about research and the culture of science. My credits include five books, the Grady medal, inaugural Pulitzers in the feature writing and explanatory journalism categories, and a special Penney-Missouri award. I am a veteran of 22 years' science reporting for newspapers and magazines; my academic career includes the leadership of a science writing department and a creative writing program. The founder and moderator of WriterL, I am currently the Philip Merrill professor of journalism at the University of Maryland. I have served three terms on the board. My most recent contributions include efforts to explore and capitalize on new-technology publishing opportunities for members (such as print-on-demand) and electronic books.

Denise Graveline, (president, don't get caught -- creative communications consulting)

My experience mirrors that of a wide range of NASW members, from journalist, to PIO, to freelancer. I've directed communications and public information for the two largest scientific societies, AAAS and the American Chemical Society, serving science journalists, freelancers and PIOs and working closely with NASW to meet its needs from within those organizations. I've also served as a senior public affairs official for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; worked as a magazine writer and editor; and freelanced successfully for many years. Currently, I am an independent communications consultant with corporate, federal, nonprofit and educational institu! tions among my clients. I'm on the organizing committee for the 2006 NASW workshops and am organizing one session at that meeting, and have served on numerous nonprofit boards. As NASW continues toward increased independence, I will work to strengthen the organization and its member services, particularly those on the Internet and in professional development.

Robin Marantz Henig (Freelance)

Maybe it's because I'm a full-time freelance that my work on the NASW board for the past eight years has been so satisfying — it's the only way I have colleagues anymore! Last year, I helped create a new Grievance Committee, in which three of us (Dan Ferber, Ellen Ruppel Shell, and I) deal with members' complaints about publishers or employers. We handled four grievances in our first six months, and our track record is four for four. It's a wonderful new member service for an evolving organization.

I've written eight books, most recently Pandora's Baby, about the early days of in vitro fertilization, and The Monk in the Garden, about the early days of genetics. I was also a co-editor of NASW's terrific official resource (and cash cow), A Field Guide to Science Writing. I spend most of my time these days writing articles for the New York Times Magazine, where I'm a contributing writer. One of those articles appeared in Best American Science Writing 2005, and another won the 2004 Science in Society Award from NASW.

Tom Paulson (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Having served one term on the board for NASW, I've come to better appreciate just how valuable this organization can be -- and how much it depends upon the work of a few dedicated individuals. My interest in continued service on the board includes: improving NASW's role in supporting and growing local affiliate groups, offering local assistance for the 2007 NASW/CASW meeting in Spokane, and seeking other organizational strategies aimed at promoting science media (or, at the very least, stopping the current decline)

John Pope (The Times-Picayune)

I have been a medical and health reporter for The Times-Picayune, in New Orleans for 20 years. I was a member of the newspaper's team that won 2006 Pulitzer Prizes, for Public Service and Breaking News, for our Hurricane Katrina coverage.

During my career, I've discovered the power of the science writers' network, building bonds through fellowships and relying on each other as sounding boards, colleagues and friends.

That network was never more important than when Katrina hit last year. Evacuating, publishing online-only editions for three days and serving as an electronic lifeline for the New Orleans diaspora — and those who love the city everywhere — made us all realize how much we rely on networks, whether they be online as blogs and community bulletin boards, or in person.

I'd like to make our networking more powerful and more interactive, helping our recently redesigned Web site grow into a popular forum where we can readily share ideas, issues, approaches and information that can be critical in a crisis like Katrina and important every day.

Tabitha M. Powledge (Freelance)

Radical changes in markets for science writers now dominate our work lives. From 1997 to this year I examined those changes in the ScienceWriters column, The Free Lance. I am also on two committees: Freelance and Web. In the six years I have been a board member, NASW has become more activist and concerned about professional issues ranging from electronic rights to freedom of information. We have expanded services for our growing freelance membership, improving reliability of essential electronic communications and helping resolve grievances and payment problems with clients.

I was founding editor of The Scientist and an editor at what is now Nature Biotechnology. A full-time freelance since 1990, I have written for, among others, Scientific American, Health magazine, PLOS Biology, The Scientist, The Washington Post, BioScience, Popular Science, Current Biology, The Lancet, and Web publications such as Salon.com, HMS Beagle/BioMedNet.com, and The Scientist. I am co-author of the forthcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Microbiology and am working on a second edition of my 1994 book Your Brain: How You Got It and How It Works.

Susanne Rust (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

For three years, I've been a science reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A former primate behaviorist, I changed careers in 2001, after taking Deborah Blum's science writing class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Recognizing the "call," I applied for an AAAS Mass Media Fellowship, got it, and then interned at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel during the summer of 2002. That fall, I became a UC Santa Cruz science communications student, but was invited to return to the Journal Sentinel — at the end of my first quarter — as a permanent member of its newsroom staff.

I'd like to join the NASW board as a neophyte, greenhorn-promoting member. Being new to the field is not easy and there are a lot of us newcomers out there who need the support, opportunities, and community NASW offers. As a board member, I'd like reach out to this demographic: Help to strengthen recruitment and get new members actively involved, thereby ensuring a long and strong future for this respected and important organization.

Sally Squires (Washington Post)

We stand at a pivotal point in the news business. Shrinking news holes in print journalism, the decline of science and health sections in newspapers and decreasing viewers on network and local television are offset by growing opportunities on the Web and emerging multimedia from e-mail newsletters to streaming video and audio, from podcasts to cell phones. It's key that science and medical journalists make this transition to new media to deliver the highest quality coverage possible in this brave new world of journalism.

In 2005, the Outreach committee of which I am co-chair organized a workshop at the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors in Denver — just one way to educate editors about the importance of science and medical reporting. It's an outreach effort that I'd like to continue to shepherd if I have the privilege of serving again as an NASW board member.There are also intriguing possibilities to pursue with the National Association of Broadcasters, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the J-Lab at the University of Maryland — a pioneer in interactive journalism.

Curt Suplee (National Science Foundation)

As a multi-faceted has-been, I'm probably qualified to represent a broad spectrum of NASW members. I've written four books and dozens of freelance magazine stories, worked as a writer and editor at the Washington Post for 25 years, and now run the public-information operation for NSF. I've won writing awards from AAAS, the American Chemical Society, the American Astronomical Society and so forth. I'm freelancing whenever possible.

On the NASW board, I'm involved in a fledgling "outreach" campaign to inform news organizations, scientific associations and citizen groups about the value of science reporting. That project has truly ambitious goals. And it should: Our profession is threatened.by shrinking news holes, desperate "dumbing down" to attract younger audiences, and management indifference to what top editors perceive as "difficult" subject matter. NASW must be as active as possible in trying to reverse this dismal trend, and I am proud to be a part of the effort.

Rabiya Tuma (Freelance)

I am a full-time freelance journalist, specializing in oncology, cell biology, and neurobiology. I currently write for a variety of trade and popular publications, including The Economist, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and CURE.

Prior to launching my writing career in 2000, I obtained my doctorate in biochemistry and worked as a research scientist for a number of years. I have learned journalism on the job, by attending workshops, and by reading the NASW listserves. In the past several years, I have participated in and co-organized NASW workshop panels on how to build and maintain a successful freelance business. This year I became a member of the 2006 Workshop Committee and co-chair of the Freelance Committee.

Like many science writers, I rely on NASW for interaction with my geographically-dispersed colleagues and for professional development. If elected to the board, I would work to foster these aspects of our community.

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