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Links 1 through 10 of 164 by Chad Orzel tagged journalism

In which Richard Adams Locke wins the Internet 150 years before it existed.

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Authors of science books often begin as writers of science news. As a science journalist who is looking to write a book, I’ve become very curious as to how other science journalists made the leap forward. I suspected that the questions that go into books might be different from those that drive newspaper and magazine journalism. With that in mind, I asked six successful science authors what questions they have found themselves asking — of themselves or of their sources — when writing  books. Are there essential questions that journalists might not ask but which book authors should? They provided a trove of valuable insights:

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I don’t blame science reporters for flubbing facts on occasion. Science is difficult to understand, and scientists famously lack communication skills.

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But the problem extends beyond simply misunderstanding the science. In fact, science writers appear to obey a collection of unwritten rules when trying to convey science to a mainstream audience. Such as:

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This is a deliberate, intentional attempt by a politicized faction of American evangelicals to do two things: 1) redefine “Christian” to mean “white evangelical Protestant,” and 2) redefine “evangelical Protestant” to mean “conservative Republican.”
This is inaccurate. And uncivil.
It’s deliberately insulting to every Christian who is not a white evangelical Protestant and to every white evangelical Protestant who is not a conservative Republican. The latter group is not a small category. Millions of white evangelical Protestants voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
Millions of them. Millions of us. More than the combined total populations of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, the Dakotas, Vermont, Wyoming, Rhode Island and West Virginia. But for the most part, the fundraisers and vote-herders of the religious right have succeeded in getting the media to play along with the weird idea that these millions of people do not exist.

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What you are left with is the obvious fact of a human being: confronted with his participation in an immoral act, doubling down on immorality. Accused of deception, he elects to deceive further. Breitbart took many with him down that path. By the end we were left with writers parsing the term lynching so as to further malign Sherrod and score one for the team. That their redefinition would have remanded Emmett Till out of the category mattered little. Anything for the home team.

When I heard that Andrew Brietbart had died, I was saddened. It is natural to think of the damage Breitbart did to people like Sherrod by embracing lying as a weapon. But I found myself thinking of the great injury he must have ultimately done himself, for by the end of the Sherrod affair, he was a man lying only to himself and other liars.

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Imagine you’re a writer covering physics. (Or, if you’re a writer covering physics, just be yourself for the moment.) Now imagine you came across a paper called ”Disruption of a Proto-Planetary Disk by the Black Hole at the Milky Way Centre” that got your mind’s juices flowing. The abstract looks really interesting, so you’re about to click on the PDF link when you see this:

Press embargo until published

Hmm, have you been crushed by the “freely available but embargoed” monster yet again? Or are you free to report on this exciting finding?

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The buzz about how bloggers and citizen journalists will save the day, once almost deafening, has died down to a murmur, although the buzz about Twitter, Facebook, and cellphone video cameras saving the day has picked up thanks to their powerful contributions to coverage of major breaking stories, from the Arab spring to Occupy Wall Street. But the triumphant march to the digital future, at least when measured in terms of original reporting, has yet to lead anywhere near triumph.

Yet the picture is not entirely bleak.

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Weingarten may also be the best writer in American journalism. He’s the only person to have won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing twice, once for the violinist story and once for a story about parents who accidentally leave their children in hot cars. And as amazing as those articles are, neither is generally considered his finest. That story, about a children’s entertainer, is as good a piece of writing as you’ll ever find tossed on your front lawn.

You might wonder why the best writer in American journalism would have fake poop as his Twitter icon. Or spend an inordinate amount of time making prank phone calls. Or concern himself with monkey sex, fake sneezes, or bacon taped to cats. As he once put it in a column, “I mostly write about underpants.”

Weingarten is not a horrible person, but there may be something wrong with him.

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