Journalism 101 for Scientists

Next week I am going to be speaking on a panel at the University of Waterloo about journalism for a group of scientists. The event is being organized by the Science Media Centre of Canada, which aims to help scientists understand journalists and journalists understand science so that our society is a little more science literate.

To help the discussion, I am posting a recent article I wrote for the United Church Observer about how ministers and church groups can work better with the media. And, before you say, “Wait a minute, science and religion aren’t the same, how can they learn from each other?!!” Consider that I am married to a master’s student studying theology (and you can see her blog Third Way Style about religious fashion), plus the first two sections to be cut in most newspapers well before the horoscope or comics are the “Religion/Spirit” and “Science” sections.

Without further ado, here is: HowtoMakeHeadlines

Magazine Articles Abound

We are so used to printing our own business cards, letterhead, and other personal business communications on our home printers that we forget that just a generation ago it was normal to take those sorts of things to a local print shop.

Now, there is a growing movement numbering in the thousands that print simple replacement parts, devices, and even some increasing complicated machines at home rather than buying them at a hardware store. This sort of decentralized manufacturing on demand could change everything. No more shipping goods from China.

Look in the October issue of the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery for my article about 3D printing.

And, October also brought to print a completely different type of article published in a radically different publication.

Many churches have experienced either good or bad media coverage from time to time, but how do you build a really strong and lasting relationship? That’s the question I set out to answer for an article in the United Church Observer.

The article had me talking to ministers and editors across the country about the give and take between reporter and reportee. One of my favorite stories involved a church about a 30 minute drive from my home that decided to publicize the fact that they hadn’t raised enough money for a Habitat for Humanity build. By being open and honest about their challenges, another local group actually agreed to contribute the remainder needed and the build went ahead.

Unfortunately you won’t find a copy of my article online, but if you sneak into any United Church they will likely have a copy of the October issues still sitting out.

PI & Pub Night in K-W for Local Science Writers

On Wednesday, June 4th I will be helping to organize the final PI and Pub night of the 2007-2008 season. In essence a group of local science writers come out to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics to listen to a public lecture by some incredibly brilliant person. After the talk, we all head over to the Black Hole Bistro for a drink, a light bite to eat, and some good conversation.

In June we will hear from Bill Phillips, Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1997. His talk will be about time and clocks, and should be very interesting because I believe he is involved with the Clock of the Long Now project.

If you write about science and want to come out to the PI and Pub night, just let me know and I will arrange a ticket.

Can a Media Coop Fight Corporate Media?

It’s not a great time to be a journalist. Mass firings of editorial departments, the ever growing conglomeration of media so that fewer and fewer companies own public discussion, and of course the frickin’ freelance gold standard is still $1/word!! But, I’m not bitter.

Actually, I am kind of excited. There was an interesting presentation by a couple left-leaning independent journalists from the Dominion Newspaper at the University of Waterloo tonight.

The two guys (beards, black sweaters, and worn jeans…yep, they were hippy/artsy/viva la revolution types) were very genuine about their hopes for the Dominion. And, I have to admit that there is a definite need for some real investigative journalism that runs counter to the mainstream media.

However, their business plan seems flawed. I mean, their five year plan actually states as one of their goals “pay journalists”. I’m not sure how long they will last without paying their writers.

They also have a very anti-corporate advertising policy. In essence, no money from any company that employees more than 20 people unless they put democracy and social justice ahead of profits. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, they plan to produce thousands of copies of their monthly newspaper and give them out for free or on a donation based system.

I’m just not sure how well it will work.

On the other hand, they were very honest that they don’t want to be just another small market for lefties to rant about how governments and corporations are destroying the world, the developing world, sea corals and sex.

Another thing I thought had some promise was that they have some great journalists working with them already, and their sustainer/subscriber system where you pay $20/month to get the paper could really catch on. And, the way that they are starting nationwide city-specific media coops could also take off.

One thing is for sure, if these guys can figure out some startup kinks they could really become something cool. I will definitely be watching them in the future, and if I get a better feeling in the future then I would love to write for them.

Just so long as I don’t have to grow facial hair….that could take forever with my baby faced good looks.