“What makes a journalist in 2015?” asked moderator Robin Marantz Henig, freelance journalist and president of NASW, to open the ScienceWriters 2015 panel discussion, Ethics in today’s science writing landscape: A community conversation.
Recognizing a red flag and following your gut when ethics is in question leaves a lot of science writers questioning what is or is not actually acceptable. Debates and anecdotes were encouraged during the session “Ethics in Today’s science writing landscape: A community conversation.” This plenary session kicked off the first of 17 sessions for the day, and more than 600 attendees showed up to watch two long-time freelance journalists square off.
In addition to the NASW Fellows covering parts of ScienceWriters2015, 15 science graduate students covered the first day of CASW’s New Horizons in Science sessions as part of ComSciCon-SciWri15, a student-organized science-writing workshop that wrapped around the conference. NASW members provided tutorials, mentoring and editing to the ComSciCon participants. The experimental workshop was sponsored by CASW and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The stories are published on CASW’s Newsroom page.
Plans for the Fair Contracts Project session took an unexpected turn in the days leading up to the 2015 NASW meeting when meeting organizers discovered that uniting freelancers to develop a standard contract would violate anti-trust laws.
What happens in the Happiest Place on Earth doesn't always stay at the Happiest Place on Earth. The measles outbreak at Disneyland this past spring infected 147 people in the U.S. and changed the dominant narrative on child vaccination. The celebrity spokespeople have quieted down, and doctors have become more adamant about vaccinating young patients. The panel took a retrospective look at where the media went wrong, and what science writers can learn from the story.
Jeanne Erdmann credits a $20,000 Idea Grant in 2011 with enabling her and co-founder Siri Carpenter to take their recently launched website The Open Notebook to the next level. Along the way, the process of writing and revising that first grant helped them to better explain how the money could make a significant difference for their online science writing resource, which has since garnered subsequent grants from NASW and other organizations. “Every time you write a grant, it really helps you to crystalize your idea,” said Erdmann, who spoke on a panel outlining the logistics and benefits of pursuing the funding.
From the puzzle of invasive beetles to the mystery of undiagnosed disease, ScienceWriters Awards Night celebrated the role of journalists as detectives. The year’s winners for excellent science writing — selected by the National Association of Science Writers and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing — accepted awards at an Oct. 10 ceremony in Cambridge, Mass.
The post-publication discovery that you’ve made a reporting error can feel a lot like Wile E. Coyote’s shock after realizing he’s run off a cliff, says National Geographic deputy research director Brad Scriber. Even after his endless pursuit of Road Runner leads him off solid ground, the cartoon villain continues to speed through the air, until he looks down, understands his predicament and plummets.
Data today is being gathered at record rates — and much of it easily accessible. New York City alone has over 1350 open data sets. “Our challenge now harnessing all this,” said Robert Lee Hotz, a science journalist at the Wall Street Journal and one of the four panellists in the data journalism session.
“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested, and the frog dies of it,” said moderator Florence Williams, quoting E.B. White. It was an apt opening for “Four writers sat in a bar: humor and voice in science writing,” which drew an eager, standing-room-only audience.