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ScienceWriters meeting coverage

WCSJ 2017 promises a diverse, provocative conference

By William G. Schulz

Next year’s World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ), to be held Oct. 26 to 30, 2017, in San Francisco, was previewed at a special luncheon briefing at NASW’s 2016 annual meeting, held Oct. 28 to Nov. 1., in San Antonio.

It will be the first WCSJ conference to be held in the U.S. San Francisco was chosen in part because of the region’s rich concentration of science and technology innovation in both the public and private sector.

Byline Counting project: Data and solutions

By Diana Steele

The Byline Counting Project panel generated a lively discussion between panelists and audience members about the lack of gender parity in science feature writing. The project demonstrated that career-making marquee features are heavily dominated by male writers.

Nearly 30 volunteers counted bylines in 11 publications for eight months and divided the writers by gender.

How to increase your social media reach when you’re a one-person shop

Maria Belen Farias, Saba Sedighi, Rebecca Burton, Brandon Echter, Bob Hughes

Managing social media in a small or solo business can be challenging but there are strategies and tips to make things easier, according to panelists in "How to increase your social media reach when you’re a one-person shop."

Reaching "the front page of the Internet": A science writer’s guide to using Reddit

Pam Frost-Gorder

Reddit has a reputation. But for all its potential unsavoriness, Reddit is a powerful social media platform — one capable of reaching thousands of potential readers.

Reporters, PIOs tell how to ask and answer the tough questions

Like the insurance company commercials that note "If you’re a parrot, you repeat things" and "If you’re a mom, you call at the worst time," it is obvious that "If you’re a science writer, you ask questions" and "If you’re a science PIO, you answer questions." But what if the questions are about research misconduct, questionable studies, plagiarism or other negative or controversial aspects of the science and technology communicated by NASW members?

Hit the streets: How to bring non-scientists into science stories

While expert sources are necessary to add credibility and nuance (and, ideally, personality) to the writer’s interpretation of a scientific concept, they might not effectively tell the whole story. Non-scientists — a young stroke survivor, a bereaved parent, a victim of water contamination — can provide more context and emotional depth. They put a face to the data, illustrating how people are being affected.

How to get your editor begging for more

“Editors are desperate people,” Josh Fischman, editor at Scientific American, told a standing-room-only audience. Publications need to be filled with ideas and editors need people who can write those ideas. Once an editor is excited about your story idea, the trick for the freelancer is to keep that excitement going, he explained. Fischman, along with editors Cori Vanchieri of Science News, Gideon Gil of STAT, and Alexandra Witze, correspondent for Nature and Science News attempted to illuminate for writers just how to do that.

Writing when you have a strong opinion

Maia Szalavitz, Christie Aschwanden, Julie Rehmeyer, Gary Taubes, Pamela Weintraub

When science journalist Gary Taubes speaks publicly about nutrition and weight loss, he’s wary of mentioning carbohydrates too early in the presentation, especially when he knows there are physicians in the audience. He doesn’t want to be dismissed as “one of those Atkins people.” This is a problem many science writers face. How do you clearly communicate where the evidence lies without coming off as biased, turning off many readers?

Practical strategies for science & health journalism diversity

Mallory Black, Jacqueline Howard, Danielle N. Lee, Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

The impetus of this session was the relative lack of Black, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian science journalists. The organizer and moderator, Alberto I. Roca, executive director of DiverseScholar, acknowledged that although there are many other types of diversity, this panel chose to focus on race and ethnicity.

Humans first, disability second: Towards a responsible portrayal of disabled people in journalism.

Lizzie Wade, Julie Devaney,  Lydia X.Z. Brown, Rose Evelethv

It is somehow enrooted deep in society that disabled people are brave just for doing everyday activities — like attending school, driving or buying groceries — and that they should be praised just for that. This phenomenon is called "inspiration porn" and the reason it exists is in part how the media portrays disability.