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Slides from a presentation by University of Leicester Genetics graduate Jo Marchant about Science Journalism as a "Career After Biological Science"

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  1. 1. Adventures in science journalism Jo Marchant News editor, Nature
  2. 2. How I got here… BSc Biological Sciences (Genetics) Leicester University 1992-1995 PhD Medical Microbiology Leicester University and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London 1995-1998 MSc Science Communication Imperial College London 1998-1999
  3. 3. How I got here… 6 weeks work experience at New Scientist, Jul-Aug 1999 3 months work experience in press office at CERN physics lab, Geneva, Oct-Dec 1999 6-month internship at New Scientist, Jan-Jul 2000
  4. 4. How I got here… Reporter, New Scientist Jul 2000 – Dec 2001 Physical sciences news editor, New Scientist Dec 2001 – April 2004 Online news editor, Nature April 2004 - March 2005 News editor, Nature April 2005 - present
  5. 5. Nature’s news coverage 8-page news section at the front of the magazine About 15 reporters around the world Cover news of the week that will be of particular interest to professional scientists All the news is also published online, along with daily online-only news stories
  6. 6. What I do Determine overall news strategy - what sort of story should Nature be covering, and how? Commission all the news stories each week - decide what to cover, what angle to take, who will write it Edit the copy when it comes in from reporters See the story through onto the page - work with subs, picture researchers and art desk on the layout, picture choice, headlines etc
  7. 7. Who covers science news? Daily newspapers eg Guardian, New York Times Daily news websites eg BBC Current affairs magazines eg Economist, Newsweek, Prospect Popular science magazines (weekly/monthly) eg New Scientist, Scientific American, Discover, Seed, Wired Science journals eg Science, Nature Not to mention TV, radio, podcasts, blogs etc
  8. 8. Where news stories come from Press releases Scientific papers Conference presentations Events already in the news Gossip / interviews Lab visits
  9. 9. What stories we cover Must be of broad, international interest, that will make a difference to readers’ lives: 1. Scientific results - where there are broader implications, either for the field or for society, or an interesting controversy or human story 2. Science policy - stories about what science is funded or how it is carried out 3. Science behind/around events in the news 4. Community stories - stories about how scientists work and relate to each other
  10. 10. How we cover stories Always have to bear in mind the competition from newspapers, TV, radio, websites, popular science magazines, and make sure we add something more: 1. Break exclusive stories 2. Authoritative, accurate coverage 3. In-depth analysis - what does it all mean?
  11. 11. The editing process Reporter pitches news story Editor commissions story Reporter writes story, files to editor Editor edits the story (big picture) Subs sub-edit the story (grammar, sense) Editor sends back to reporter to check Story laid out on page, subs cut to fit Editor works with subs on headline, caption etc
  12. 12. Tips on getting into science journalism Read as much science journalism as possible - look at who covers what and how Find out who the key people are on publications you might want to write/work for Do some freelance work on the side, and/or get involved in student newspaper Try to get some work experience - many publications do summer placements, or try for BA Media Fellowship Take a journalism or science communication course Join the Association of British Science Writers May be easier to start at a more specialist publication
  13. 13. How to pitch a story (to an editor who gets hundreds of emails a day) Do your homework on the publication Find out who the relevant editor is Find a story the editor can’t get anywhere else Email short pitch: say what the story is, what sort of article you are pitching, why it’s right for that publication, where the story is from and any particular expertise you bring to it. Don’t just forward an abstract or press release Say when you need to hear back by. Follow up with phone call
  14. 14. What makes a good science journalist Love talking about and writing about science Have an inherent curiosity, must want to ask questions and not care looking stupid. Your job is to make things simple for the reader, not to make yourself look clever Know how to tell a story. Each article needs a clear narrative, you’re not just writing about/around a topic Be hard on yourself. Is this really new? Does anyone really care? Do you really understand what’s going on? Care about tiny details, at same time as pursuing the big picture Distance yourself from the scientific community - you are reporting on science and holding it to account