NASW Update, Apr. 18, 2005

Here's an update about the activities of our committees, liaisons, and many other volunteers.

The NASW board is a very busy group. We haven't always done the best job of keeping members apprised of our progress on various fronts, so here's an update about the activities of our committees, liaisons, and many other volunteers.

Because everybody who's contributing is a volunteer and NASW's funds are limited, we may not always be able to provide such updates. But for now, we hope you find this valuable. And if you want to submit items for possible future updates, send them to Mariette DiChristina, NASW secretary.


The Membership Committee met in February in Washington, D.C., and decided that its goal for 2005 would be to establish ties with other journalism organizations in the interest of advancing diversity and improving the understanding of science among all journalists. We have offered to organize presentations on science writing for their annual meetings this summer. We have approached the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. As a result, AAJA has asked us to organize a panel on health and science writing for their meeting, to be held Aug. 17-20 in Minneapolis. Linda Wang is leading that effort; contact her if you'd like to help out, or have ideas for the panel. We are waiting to hear back from NABJ and NAHJ. All members are welcome to join us in figuring out NASW's diversity mission and in making these things happen. Contact Nancy Shute or Corinna Wu.


Russell Clemings, the new NASW cybrarian who started on April 1, has been very busy during his settling-in period. Many of the tasks are "invisible," such as making the list configurations consistent, but they are all helpful to the smooth running of our services. Now that Russell is on board, the committee co-chairs, Kelli Whitlock Burton and Mariette DiChristina, want to soon put out the RFP for our Web redesign. As promised, we will soon post the results of the membership survey, which is helping guide our efforts for the redesign.


The Education Committee met at AAAS to discuss the previous year and plan for next year.

Internship fair: We seek a person to assist Terry Devitt as coordinator for 2006, and to then carry on. The fair drew 40 interviewees interviewing at 13 publications. Will continue at AAAS not CASW/NASW.

AAAS Mentoring: We matched up nearly 30 people and only had to turn away a few for lack of mentors. Will continue at AAAS, though a "lunch with mentors" at NASW/CASW was discussed.

Teaching Web site: "Freshening" the page will be a priority now that it has been launched. NASW-teach traffic is slow but we may try to archive threads for the page.

Jeff Grabmeier and John Travis NASW education committee co-chairs.


NASW's Freelance Committee has recently focused on developing and proposing six possible workshops as a "freelance track" for NASW's October 2005 conference. More than 40 percent of NASW members identify themselves as freelancers, and many others freelance on occasion, so we felt that a slate focusing on freelancers' interests would be worthwhile. The slate includes panels of interest to staff journalists and public information officers, but the line-up is designed to be especially helpful for freelance science writers. Proposed workshops explore the process of story idea development, freelance editing, writing from the boondocks, book proposals, radio reporting, and freelance business strategy.

The committee has consulted with the NASW Board to help NASW respond appropriately to Seed magazine's failure to pay writers whose work they've published. The committee is also helping the board develop a grievance procedure to assist freelancers who claim they've been wronged by a client's unethical behavior.

Dan Ferber, chair NASW Freelance Committee.


The deadlines for the Science-in-Society awards have changed because, starting in 2006, the awards will be presented at our annual conference in October. Entries must be postmarked by 2/1/06. for that year. Books must have 2004 or 2005 publication dates. Entries in other categories must have been published or broadcast between 6/1/04 and 12/31/05.


NASW has learned that TTS (Total Transportation Solutions) has gone out of business. A couple of years ago (SW, Winter 2003-04), information was provided on how to open an account through TTS in order to receive a 30 to 40 percent on DHL overnight services. A further incentive to try this service was NASW would receive a 10 percent debate for each DHL transaction. With TTS's demise, NASW is no longer receiving the rebate. We trust members who signed up are still receiving their DHL discounts, but wanted you to know that NASW is no longer benefiting from this arrangement.


After Diane McGurgan was called by BenefitProtect, an insurance brokerage that is interested in offering services to NASW, the board and member David Lindsey — who chaired our previous insurance committee — considered whether NASW should inform its members about the company and what it claims to offer. After research by David and careful consideration by board members, President Laura van Dam decided we should include a reference about BenefitProtect on the forthcoming Web page that will include the report about health insurance written by David in December 2003.

The information about BenefitProtect, as well as the other companies noted on that page, will include a caveat emptor; NASW is NOT endorsing or recommending any insurance broker, insurer, or other related outfit. The Web page will also point out, for reasons of full disclosure, that individuals possibly interested in BenefitProtect's services should recognize that the company says it will give a commission to NASW whenever a member of our organization signs up for any of its services.

David learned that BenefitProtect apparently works with established insurers dealing with health, accident, and life insurance. The outfit advertises rates that start at $39.95 per month. Apparently that amount doesn't buy much, David found out. BenefitProtect offers three health-related products. They are:

  • Health Discount Coverage. "Essentially it's a set of negotiated rates that you buy into. That is, if you're in this program, you go to a doc with a sore throat and you pay out of pocket some charge for an office visit that's less than the standard charge," David wrote. "It may be worthwhile for some, but it isn't health insurance."
  • Catastrophic Coverage. According to David, "As the name implies, this is some kind of high-deductible coverage that supposedly takes care of you in extremis, but doesn't cover routine health care."
  • Major Medical. David found that this service "appears to be closest to a genuine health coverage benefit, but from the information on their Web site I can deduce only that it's a 'cafeteria' system, where you can select deductibles, copayments, types of coverage (prescription, inpatient, outpatient, etc.) and what you pay depends entirely on what you want to buy. I imagine this would all depend on individual circumstances so it's impossible to come up with any representative rates."

More information is available at the BenefitProtect web site. The NASW report The Sad State of Health Insurance Options for Freelancers, also mentions several insurance outfits.


Here's the first paragraph of a March 29, 2005, press release from the ASJA: "The American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Authors Guild, and the National Writers Union today announced the filing of a motion for court approval of an $18 million settlement in a class action suit they and 21 freelance writers filed on behalf of thousands of freelance writers whose stories appeared in online databases without their consent. They expect preliminary court approval of the settlement within the next month." Get the rest of the news on the ASJA's home page.


NASW joins with the Society of Environmental Journalists in mourning the death of founding board member Kevin Carmody, award-winning environmental reporter for the Austin American-Statesman. The society's site contains a story about Kevin, links to an obituary (requires free registration), memories of Kevin, and information on funds for his family.

April 18, 2005

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