Seasonal Science Stories: Using the Calendar as Your News Hook

Posted 4 December 2014 by Matt Shipman

Reporters and bloggers write in a variety of styles for a variety of audiences, but one of the things that every blog post or news item needs to do is explain to readers why the writer is telling this story now. What’s the news hook? Science stories are often reactive, meaning that the story was written in response to some external event that the writer had no control over – such as the publication of a journal article or a... Read more

Following Your Passion Project: Notes from the 2014 National Association of Science Writers Meeting

Posted 13 November 2014 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Brooke Borel. Borel is a freelance science writer and author. She organized a session at the 2014 meeting of the National Association of Science Writers on what it takes to make a “passion project” a success, and I asked her to write a guest post on the subject. Last month, 430 science journalists and communicators took over a Marriott hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio for their annual meeting, which included talks and... Read more

Choosing Between Blog Posts and News Releases

Posted 5 September 2014 by Matt Shipman

In my day job, I’m a public information officer (PIO) at NC State University. Part of my job is to pitch research stories to reporters, and two of the tools I use when pitching stories are blog posts and news releases. This post discusses two examples that shed some light on how I decide which tool to use. The Similarities Earlier this summer, researchers came to me with two forthcoming papers. They had a lot in common. Both papers were... Read more

Why a Bunch of Science Writers Are Writing About a Fictional Planet

Posted 22 July 2014 by Matt Shipman

Tatooine is a desert planet, home to Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hutt, as well as a menagerie of large beasts: banthas and dewbacks, krayt dragons and sarlacci. Tatooine is also, of course, not a real place. Science writing aims to convey ideas, engaging and educating readers on topics from biology to astronomy. Because science writing is focused on real efforts to understand the real universe, you might reasonably ask why a collection of science writers have chosen to spend... Read more

How I Decide What To Blog About

Posted 23 June 2014 by Matt Shipman

I think about writing in different ways, depending on who I’m writing for. I’m a science writer and public information officer (PIO) at a large university. When I’m writing in my capacity as a PIO, I am writing for my employer; I’m pretty thoughtful in regard to both what I choose to write about and how I choose to write about it. Is it a story that people will be interested in? Is this research interesting or important to external... Read more

Scicomm Accessibility: A Call For Shared Language

Posted 17 June 2014 by Matt Shipman

High profile policy issues, such as those related to global climate change or antibiotic resistance, highlight the need for helping people understand scientific concepts and how they relate to “real world” problems. And there seems to be an increasing level of awareness among scientists, reporters and bloggers (among others) that science communication, as a discipline, can help us communicate more effectively with a wide array of audiences. But there’s a stumbling block – and it’s an ironic one: science communication... Read more

Context is Key: Reporters, PIOs, and Handling Health Study Findings Responsibly

Posted 14 May 2014 by Matt Shipman

Coffee is good for you. Or bad for you. The same can be said for red wine, chocolate, and eggs. It depends on which news story you just read. Media coverage of health research can give readers cognitive whiplash. There’s an explanation for this. “The reason the stories contradict each other is because the studies contradict each other,” Virginia Hughes wrote in a May 12 post at her blog, Only Human. “The science of health is so, so confusing, I... Read more

Expand Your Audience by Sneaking Up On Science

Posted 4 November 2013 by Matt Shipman

Science writers do a good job of conveying science news to people who are interested in science. But we don’t always do a good job of reaching people who aren’t interested in science. In fact, if you’re not interested in science, you’ve already stopped reading this post, because I used the word “science” three times in the first sentence. Reporters are trained to put the news up front. If you’re writing about a new discovery in cancer research or cellular... Read more

Know What You Want, Part One

Posted 1 August 2013 by Matt Shipman

If you are engaging in science communication (or any communication, really) you should know what you want before you start writing (or filming or recording). This is true for reporters, but it is especially true for public information officers (PIOs) – because the goals for PIOs can be a lot more diverse. Reporters generally have a limited number of goals in mind for what they are writing. Broadly speaking, they want to convey information in an accurate way that keeps... Read more

Embargoes and Retractions: an Interview with Ivan Oransky, Part Two

Posted 25 July 2013 by Matt Shipman

In the second part of my interview with Ivan Oransky, we talk about what led to his founding of Embargo Watch and co-founding of Retraction Watch – as well as the Ingelfinger Rule, what he looks for in a medical reporter and what you can learn from grad students. The first part of the interview can be found here. CB: You started at Reuters Health in 2009, and I’m guessing that being executive editor took up an enormous amount of... Read more