ScienceWriters meeting coverage

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ScienceWriters meeting coverage

At a session filled with video clips, multimedia web surfing and, yes, someone muttering at the display computer "I am a Mac person. How do you ... ," panelists at the "21st Century Science Writing: New Tools for Thinking Outside the Box" session of this year's NASW meeting talked blogs, YouTube, Facebook and online gambling. Each panelist presented a case study or two of how they use new technologies to tell stories better and faster.

Session organizer and freelancer Karyn Hede designed this session for the 2007 NASW Science in Society meeting to spotlight intersections between food, wine, and science, and to suggest new story ideas in this field. As she noted, food safety stories have important science elements. For example, the nationwide outbreak of E. Coli 0157:H7 in 2006 that was traced to California spinach raised questions about how to avoid similar contamination and how often produce should be tested.

Science writers are in the business of communicating real, worthwhile, exciting science — working either as science journalists or public information officers. It's not about the job title; it's about communicating new scientific discoveries to the intended audience.

It all comes down to the pitch. Whether a story idea lives or dies depends on the writer's ability to pitch it to an editor quickly, clearly, and with pizzazz. At the lively "Pitch Slam" session, writers queued up to pitch their ideas to a high-powered panel of editors, who dissected each pitch like doctors in an operating room theater, providing valuable lessons on the anatomy of a successful pitch for all who attended.

"Podcasting is about content," Ivan Semeniuk told the crowd of roughly 100 assembled for the Podcasting 101 session at the 2006 NASW Conference. "But I want to add one more layer to that: it's about identity." Semenuik, the host and producer of New Scientist's "Sci-Pod," and the four other panelists returned repeatedly to the themes of creating identity and grappling with technology as they explained the fundamentals of podcasting — from getting good sound quality for phone-recorded interviews to marketing techniques for recruiting more listeners.

During the first Clinical Trials Basic Training session an Food and Drug Administration official and an academic explained the basic standards and issues involved in properly designing a human clinical trial. The goal was to teach reporters enough about the process to adequately analyze trial data and avoid inaccurate coverage of results. To that end, the speakers pointed out some specific questions for reporters to ask and information to request and scrutinize to properly assess trial results.