I am in the thick of things at the Trib. After a slow start, I feel like I am finally hitting my stride. The learning curve has been very steep for me so far. I thought I was already good at thinking about why people should care about science, but I have a long way to go in terms of being able to consistently communicate those ideas in my writing!
By trying to do well as a reporter and write good stories, I am beginning to understand why science is often misrepresented to the public. Communicating science to a public who is reading the Tribune is a totally different beast than writing science for a public who is reading Wired or SciAm. It’s challenging to strike the right balance between the technical aspects of research and the why you should care parts. Even when I understand the science, I get too much in my scientist brain and think things are just inherently cool, which is dangerous! I often still feel like I am leaning too far either in the direction of science cheerleader or in too technical a direction, but I hope to get better at being in the middle.
From what I can tell, the Tribune has carved out a niche with longer-reported pieces that address an issue from multiple angles: health, science, consumer/individual, business. To be asked to report, research, and write stories in this way was a bit frustrating at first, but now I am thankful to get what feels like a experience beyond daily news.
Everyone is constantly telling me to think about why the reader should care about a story. I actually got some great advice today, which my mentor called “doping format.” I still have no idea what the name means, but the gist is that you ask yourself three questions:
- What is a possible headline for my story?
- What is the story about in one sentence?
- Why should readers be interested?
Answering those three questions instantly made the story I was working on feel clearer to me, so that I could make my writing more focused. It is a pretty basic exercise, but it felt like a revelation.
In closing, I want to give a shout out to my fellow fellows. We have an active Google Group where people share tools, tips, and crazy not-always-fellowship-related stories. If you want to learn more about these fantastic folks, check their profiles.