Since its inception in 2010, more than $400,000 has been awarded by NASW's Idea Grants program for projects that benefit science writing and its practitioners. Read more to see a list of all the awardees and their exciting science writing projects. Visit www.nasw.org/ideagrants2014 for the latest call for proposals due November 4, 2015.
The Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker, funded by a Silicon Valley billionaire, shows how the rich try to silence journalists, Damaris Colhoun writes: "An entire industry has been created, some of it underground, some of it wide open, all of it aimed at discrediting a journalist’s critical take. Companies and interest groups, often coached by aggressive PR firms, are investing in bare-knuckled strategies to give their media rebuttals more teeth and a wider audience."
The continuing decline of Barnes & Noble prompts Alex Shephard to discuss what's at risk if the big chain shrinks further or closes and publishers lose one of their biggest revenue streams: "The most literary of novels will be shunted to smaller publishers. Some will probably never be published at all. And rigorous nonfiction books, which often require extensive research and travel, will have a tough time finding a publisher with the capital to fund such efforts."
Tracy Hahn-Burkett discusses lessons for writers from a book about the Broadway hit "Hamilton," written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator, and cultural critic Jeremy McCarter, including this on the careful use of detail: "Hamilton flirted with his sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler, via the placement of a comma in a letter he wrote her. Flirting via comma! This detail, so specific to the time and place of the story, blew Miranda away, and he made sure he used it."
Tabitha M. Powledge writes about a Vox post by Julia Belluz on what's still wrong with medical journalism (and science writing generally) in the digital age. Going online has been a mixed blessing, she writes: "We have fewer space constraints than dead-tree journalism, so we can explain more. We can update with ease. We can link to background information, primary studies, and other kinds of illumination. Arrayed against those, however, are those clickbait pressures."
Melody Kramer offers an alternative take on the standard reading list, adding web sites and syllabi to the usual books. An example: "If you want to brush up on your technical skills: Start with Chrys Wu’s master list of software, presentations, tutorials and tools from NICAR, the computer-assisted reporting conference. Starting with GitHub? I rounded up tutorials and tips for journalists. Source maintains a comprehensive database of reusable code for journalists."
Stuart Horwitz brings some structure to answering a question that more than a few writers ask themselves: How many drafts does it take to turn out a finished story, book, or other piece of writing? His answer is three: "We’ll call the first draft the messy draft, which is all about getting it down. We’ll call the second draft the method draft, which is all about making sense. And we’ll call the third draft the polished draft, which is all about making it good."
Belle Boggs broke away from her two-year-old daughter for a few days at a major writers' conference and reflected afterward on finding the balance between caring for her child and her career: "I have loved becoming a mother, and I love my life as a writer-teacher-mother, but I see now the loneliness that afflicts you on the other side. In particular, the loneliness of the working mother or working parent who accommodates our broken child care and parental leave system."
Andrew Seifter reviews a Shawn Otto book, The War on Science, quoting Otto on how journalism distorts governance: "'Journalists look for conflict to find an angle,' he writes, 'so there are always two sides to every story.' A scientist, by contrast, would say that 'one of these claims can be shown to be objectively false and it’s poor reporting to paint this as a controversy.' As a result, the journalistic approach 'tends to skew public policy in counterfactual directions.'"
The Pew Research Center has just issued its latest State of the News Media report and the news is grimmer than ever for legacy newspapers, with circulation down 7% in the past year, ad revenue down 8%, and staffing down 10%: "Though the industry has been struggling for some time, 2015 was perhaps the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath." Also, Rick Edmonds on the Philadelphia experiment so far.