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Turns out, Helsinki doesn’t look like this anymore. Image: Helsinki University Library.

Hi there, remember us? It’s been a few weeks, as we all got caught up in work and travels, but we’re still here! The World Conference of Science Journalists is right around the corner so let’s look back for a second at what we’ve done so far, and then forward to what our panelists are looking forward to most. Read the rest of this entry »

Erin here – I’m manning the sci4hels ship this week for question time. For question #5, we’ve decided to talk about whether science journalists have an extra obligation to educate compared to journalists who focus on other areas. We’ll be entertaining this topic on twitter at the hashtag #sci4hels on Thursday 5/9 at 1pm EST. I hope you’ll be able to join us, so, you know, I don’t end up talking to myself.

This question has me particularly excited, because for me it ties back to the larger questions of “why am I doing what I’m doing?” and even more importantly “what do I want to be doing?” Since I turned 25 two months ago I’ve been joking a lot about having a quarter-life crisis, but several things have gone on in my life recently that spurred me to take stock of just about everything, including my career.

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via Wikimedia Commons

If I do want to help educate the public about science, and if that is an important part of what I want to accomplish in my career does that mean I should be a science journalist? Why not be a teacher? (Oh, so many reasons.) I could work at a museum and educate the public. I could be a public information officer and help educate. I could be an outreach officer for any number of scientific organizations. If you want to educate, why do it through journalism?

There are a lot of questions related to this including: are there other aspects of being a journalist, specifically a science journalist that compliment being an educator? Does being an educator play a role in science journalism that it doesn’t for business or political writers? Writing scientific explainers is definitely journalism – but is it just one kind of journalism or is it something that pervades all science journalism? One of my favorite take-aways from Scio13 came out of the session on explanatory journalism where Carl Zimmer made the comment (which I’m paraphrasing) that good science journalism should never read like you are dropping a textbook on someone. I think that ties in well with this topic, because if you want to be an educator and you want to do it through journalism – well then how do you do that effectively?

While you could approach this question in a lot of different ways, I would really like to hear from people about whether being an educator was part of what made you want to become a science journalist, and what role you think education plays in your work. Bora has tackled this question before in the blog post/on Twitter with Is Education What Journalists Do? Again, I’ll be posting this question to Twitter on Thursday 5/9 at 1pm EST at the #sci4hels hashtag – I hope you’ll join in.

Update post-conversation: There are a few comments on this original post on my blog Science Decoded you can also read a full storify of the tweets.

Image: Bernard Bujold

Image: Bernard Bujold

Last week was sort of a nightmare for everyone. Between the Boston marathon bombings and ensuing man-hunt, the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas, the earthquakes in China and Iran, the bombs in Baghdad, and whatever else I’m missing. Oh, did I mention the elvis impersonator who mailed ricin to the president? Yeah, that happened too, and nobody paid attention because we were all too busy wondering what had happened to the world. It was that kind of week.

Really, though, all the attention here in the United States was on Boston. The coverage was messy, and I don’t want to go into that. There are lots of smart people already thinking about how journalists went wrong (and right) when covering the actual events as they happened. What I want to talk about is how science journalists deal with this sort of a news event – one that is not a science story unless we make it one.

What are our obligations as science journalists when Boston happens? When Aurora happens? When Newtown happens? Do we have to cover it? And if we do, how do we do it right? We’re all going to have different opinions on this, so here are some thoughts from the #sci4hels panelists (and Bora, who we’ll call the founder of the panel). Here’s what we think.

Read the rest of this entry »

So, you might have noticed a few things about the #sci4hels crew. We’re early career, we like gifs, we cover a broad array of subject areas and media, and we’re all ladies.

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Erin Podolak puts it this way:

Bora chose us by sifting through the work of dozens of new science journalists, by narrowing down his list slowly to make sure that he chose three panelists and a moderator whose experience and interests would make the best lineup. He ended up with four women. As four women who now have an international platform to discuss our profession, should we address our gender or not? Is it the proverbial gorilla in the room? Do we have some kind of duty to use our powers for good to try to tackle feminism and journalism just because we can? Are we putting some kind of target on our backs for criticism by calling attention to our gender?

Among the #sci4hels team, we talked a bit about whether or not we should touch the gender issue. Together, we decided to go there. We all have different reasons, I think, but regardless of why, we asked the question. And I think we got a ton of useful answers from all sorts of different people. So, without further ado, here’s the Storify of the conversation.

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Welcome back to Question Time! Last week we had our second Twitter discussion, and let me tell you people it either went way better or way worse depending on how much you like corn gods. Here’s the Storify (which apparently you can’t embed into a WordPress hosted blog for reasons that I don’t entirely understand).

 

The corn god Tlaloc. This will only make sense to you if you read the post. Image: Baggis

This is a post about our first question time, posted originally to my personal blog on March 18th. A recap of Question Time #2 is coming soon!

So on Monday we kicked off the #sci4hels Question Time! Which I explained here but is not hard to understand. Basically, once in a while, I’ll ask a question on Twitter and hope that people jump in and respond and have an interesting discussion. That did happen on Monday, although not quite  the way I expected. Let’s review. Read the rest of this entry »

Well recap Question Time #1 soon, but for now, here’s Question Time #2’s mighty question:

What does a new science journalist do to get noticed? How do you get people to read your work, give you assignments, follow you on Twitter, and generally just know who you are?

Tweet your answers to us using the #sci4hels tag, or comment here!

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Hello world! Wow, it’s March. How is it March? That means in just a few months, science journalists of the world will unite at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Helsinki, to face the forces of evil and figure out all of journalism’s problems in one fell swoop. Or just to hang out and try to chip away at them one by one because that’s kind of a lot to ask.

One of those sessions is the “The ‘killer’ science journalists of the future” in which three lovely panelists (Lena GroegerErin Podolak and Kathleen Raven) will share their thoughts on what it takes to make it as a newcomer in journalism today, and what that means for the journalism of tomorrow. But wait, you probably knew that already, because you’re on our blog. Duh! Can I tell you that I’m excited though? This excited:

In the run up to that panel discussion, we’re going to pose a few questions to the Twitter world and try to drum up some discussion that will be extended into the session. Why yes, I am outsourcing my work as a moderator to you, fine Twitterverse, and you are going to fall for my little plan. So here’s what we’ll do. Every so often we’ll pose a question on Twitter with the #sci4hels hashtag and hope that you’ll join our discussion. And! If you have a question you want us to ask to the world, leave it for me here in the comments. The future of our panel is in your hands, so speak up.

Our first question will be revealed on Monday of next week, so get ready.

In case you forgot what this whole thing is about, here are some background links.

Here’s a blog about our panel at Scientific American, introducing everyone.

Here’s the Sci4Hels blog. 

Get it now? Good.

 (Top photograph by Russ Creech, other photographs by the internet)

A couple of days ago, The New York Times announced it will eliminate its environmental desk and distribute the environmental reporters among other desks. Quite a lot of discussion ensued, mostly seeing this in a very negative light. I tried to put a more optimistic angle, seeing this as a potentially modernizing move for the Times. Read it here:

Why the NYTimes “Green Blog” Is Now Essential

“All of the true things I’m about to tell you are shameless lies.” Is it ever acceptable to walk into an interview with a mentality straight out of the Books of Bokonon from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle? In addition to being what is possibly my favorite literary quote ever, I think the idea of telling true lies really epitomizes an issue that so many science writers trying to break into the business are facing: when asked what our skills are, is what we feel comfortable knowing, all that we really know?

I’ve been turning this over in my brain for a couple of months now. In September I wrote a blog post about whether or not learning to code should be required for journalists. Since I admittedly can’t code, I took the position that it doesn’t need to be required. I also said that in interviews it is totally unacceptable to claim that you can code when you can’t. I didn’t expect that statement to be a part of the post that would get any discussion going, but as it turned out it became for me the most interesting part. When the #sci4hels got talking about it, what seemed like a black and white issue (of course you shouldn’t stretch the truth in an interview!) became a lot less clear and a lot more complicated. 

Read more of this post on Erin Podolak’s blog Science Decoded.

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