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The Essence of Online Science Journalism


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A brief overview of what distinguishes science and online journalism from traditional journalism, and what characteristics of the internet are particularly useful when dealing with the distinguishing characteristics of science journalism. Contextualizing with embedded information is put forward as one application of web technology that is particularly valuable in science journalism, and two implementations are briefly described.

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The Essence of Online Science Journalism

  1. 1. Essence<br />of<br />Online<br />Science Journalism<br />CSWA 2010<br />Miriam Boon<br />
  2. 2. Online Journalism<br />New Media<br /> Journalism<br />Online Journalism<br /><ul><li>multimedia
  3. 3. flexible size/length
  4. 4. thus, curation is essential
  5. 5. non-linear
  6. 6. interactive</li></li></ul><li>Core aspects of<br />online journalism?<br /> multimedia: Any non-interactive multimedia couldrun as easily on TV or radio. The ability to combine with text, is new, though.<br /> flexible size/length: This is new, but could end updrowningthe reader. Requires careful curation, but thatnearly negates thedifference. On its own, this justdrowns the reader uselessly.<br />non-linear: Can be done off-line, but it is unavoidable online.<br />interactive: Can be done off-line, but it is unavoidable online.<br />
  7. 7. Non-Linear<br /> An example of non-linear in print, which has implied structure, but could be read in any order. Online, readers will pop over to other sites to check facts, look up words, etc. whether you like it or not.<br />Diagram from September 27, 2004 issue of Time. By Joe Lertola and Ed Gabel. <br /><br />
  8. 8. Interactive<br /> You can do interactive content in print, but it works much better online. And again, whether you build it in or not, readers will interact with your work by commenting on it elsewhere, looking for more information elsewhere, etc. Build it in yourself and they’ll do this with you, rather than in spite of you. <br />
  9. 9. Science Writing<br />Examples of characteristics more essential to science journalism than traditional journalism:<br />Journalism<br />Science Writing <br /><ul><li> Topics are often tough to explain
  10. 10. Information often available injournals, which are increasingly accessible to the public
  11. 11. Usually incremental
  12. 12. Global beat</li></ul>For more characteristics, or to suggest your own:<br />
  13. 13. Online<br />Science Writing<br />New Media<br /> There are lots of peopleworking on finding newmedia tools that willaddress essential issues faced in mainstream online journalism.<br /> But there are Issues/characteristics that are far more important to science journalism than traditional journalism and thus may be neglected by those people. That’s where we should be focusing our attention. <br />Journalism<br />Science Writing<br />
  14. 14. Today’s Example<br /><ul><li>Use flexible size and curation
  15. 15. Embrace interactivity and non-linearity
  16. 16. Assist explanation of complex topics
  17. 17. Support statements to encourage reader trust
  18. 18. Contextualizing via embedded information</li></li></ul><li>Embedded Info<br /><ul><li> Allows for different knowledge levels
  19. 19. Provides background and context
  20. 20. Allows a reader-driven experience, providing more depth in those areas the reader chooses to explore
  21. 21. Allows the writer to support statements without interrupting the flow of the writing</li></li></ul><li>Methods<br /><ul><li>Links throughout the story</li></ul> The problem: readers have to flip back and forth,often losing sight of the original story<br /><ul><li>Mouse over or click for a pop-up</li></ul> The problem: traditional pop-ups are blocked, and non- traditional pop-ups appear over the text the reader is tryingto clarify<br />A solution I attempted in 2009:<br /> Use a dedicated column with a spot for references, and a spotfor glossary terms, activated by mouse over<br />
  22. 22. D. I. Y.<br />MJ project: PCOS and metformin<br /> The problem? To do this, I had to hack some existing javascript, and then insert the following html codethroughout the website:<br /><span class="refFact" onmouseover="javascript:showRef(‘exampleReference)"> This is a reference in the body of the text.</span><br /><div class="refPopup" id=“exampleReference> <br /><p><a href="”target="_blank"> Paper name. Example Journal. 2006 May;12(5):526-31.</a> </p><br /></div><br />
  23. 23.<br /><ul><li> Free, or you can pay for a custom version
  24. 24. Works with most major open source website back-ends</li></ul>Example: Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal<br /><ul><li> Possible to use (sort of) free with other back-ends</li></ul>Example: International Science Grid This Week<br />
  25. 25. Contact me<br />Twitter: @milara<br />Personal website<br />Blog: The Open Source Press<br />international Science Grid This Week<br />Work email:<br />Personal email:<br />