ScienceWriters meeting coverage

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ScienceWriters meeting coverage

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?

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.

“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.

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?

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.

Starry-eyed and determined, only the slightest tinge of desperation in their eyes betrayed mentees to the self-assured and confident mentors at the One Minute Mentor Special Lunch. At three tables of 10, the conversation bubbled and rose into the clangor of a trade floor, mentees excavating mentors’ minds for their experience, advice and encouragement.