How to be a science writer…
Front Line Genomics met with Carl Zimmer, columnist at The New York Times. As well as the New York Times Carl regularly appears on Radiolab and worked for Discover Magazine for a decade. So what advice did he give our readers about science writing and communication…?
“I don’t think I can offer that many lessons from my own experience for people starting out today simply because the business has changed a lot. I didn’t realise at the time that the way I was working in science journalism was going to rapidly go out of date. I started at Discover magazine years before they had a website. I actually helped to think about the website and how it would work and we were just starting to explore that when I began as a science writer. Today, new journalists face all sorts of challenges that I just didn’t have to deal with. There are, at least in newspaper journalism, a lot fewer staff jobs out there. There are freelance opportunities but they don’t pay anywhere near as well. I guess I’d say that journalists who really want to go into journalism today in 2016 should not act as if it’s 1996! They shouldn’t be imagining that they’re going to quickly end up at a super stable print publication. That’s possible but it’s much less likely now. That being said, there are a lot of good opportunities that didn’t exist for people starting out when I did. There are a lot of really excellent websites and online publications now that are hiring people to work on staff and do good journalism and to take advantage of the online world, and to do things that I couldn’t have done in print. So, it’s changed.”
Read the full interview here including how he beats the jargon and the meaning behind the title of his Festival of Genomics Boston talk “Tales from the genome beat: how journalists explore (and sometimes get lost in) our DNA”.
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