Hints on how (science) journalism may be working these days….

You are a young journo. You get an assignment. You don’t know where to start. But you follow and are followed by a bunch of scientists and science journalists you just met at ScienceOnline2010. So you tweet…..and within minutes your story takes off:
cassierodenberg: Starting to work on a lede graph for a story on plant-based medicines. Wish I could float off to a picturesque field right about now.
BoraZ: @cassierodenberg you may want to interview @abelpharmboy for that – he’s the expert!
cassierodenberg: Twitter first: Updated status, then emailed by @abelpharmboy, scientist willing to lend expertise & insight into my plant-med story. Wow!
BoraZ: @cassierodenberg Yes, @abelpharmboy is a real Mensch! Science writers, as @laelaps said in his post, are a helpful, tight-knit community. (referring to this post)
cassierodenberg: @BoraZ: @abelpharmboy = not only an expert, a generous expert! Can’t get over offer to help a strange writer. Sci community is astonishing
Yup. We are all in this together and more we help each other the better it will be for all of us.


9 responses to “Hints on how (science) journalism may be working these days….

  1. That is just. so. cool. 🙂

  2. This lovely vignette supports three hypotheses:
    1) Twitter will make it easier for journalists to contact expert sources.
    2) Science writers look out for each other.
    3) Abel Pharmboy is an utter legend.

  3. Adding more information that illustrates Cassie’s hustle, the speed of Twitter and the power of connections:
    On Dec. 15, I had an email from a previous colleague who was looking for science writers for a new newspaper feature. The mail came at 10:50 a.m. I sent direct messages to a couple of Charlotte-area science people I knew on Twitter, and I sent an email to Anton Zuiker asking about a jobs board on the #scio10 wiki.
    One Twitter connection, @Chem_Prof, Pat Owens of Winthrop University, replied with Cassie’s email and a strong recommendation. I emailed her, and by 1:27 p.m., her resume was in the inbox of my former colleague. I believe they sealed a deal by the end of the day.
    The freelance opportunity also went out on SCONC listserv that Anton had recommended to me, and perhaps others responded to that listing and made connections as well, but nothing could match the speed of Twitter and Cassie’s hustle.

  4. Thanks, Andria, that is a great story.
    Also, Ben Young Landis got his job via Twitter recently.
    Eh, the good old times when we had to get our jobs on blogs. How archaic!

  5. My hustle is only a small piece of the puzzle in this job market – the wonderful people (@chem_prof and @abelpharmboy) in my social media chain are such a blessing. Never underestimate the value of connections, which is Twitter’s lesson.

  6. Andria, thanks so much for the backstory. It’s all about connections among passionate people.
    When Bora let me know that Cassie needed input on a plant-based medicine story, I jumped at the chance to give her background. The whole reason I started my blog was to give objective and science-based voice to medicines that come from natural products and dietary supplements as opposed to the majority of information that comes from companies trying to sell you something. When the public hears/see these marketing pitches, it clouds the fact that many of our high-impact Rx and OTC medicines come directly from plants, fungi, bacteria, or marine organisms. My goal is to use every opportunity to educate the public on the realities of drugs from nature.
    What is lovely, and another reason I can’t wait to see Cassie’s piece, is that the inquiry was stimulated by her interview with a dynamic and accomplished researcher in my relatively small field who also happens to be a superb communicator of complex science for general audiences. Even if Cassie doesn’t have the space to mention me by name (as is the case in the vast majority of my interviews), I know there will be some aspect that I helped inform.
    Plus, I’ve now learned more about Winthrop University and will definitely plan a visit with @Chem_Prof next time I’m down in the Queen City.
    And Ed Yong’s kind and generous spirit is matched only by his outstanding writing and lessons he teaches me every time I dial up Not Exactly Rocket Science.
    Bloggers, scientists, science writers, educators, researchers – we are all on the same team in promoting public understanding of science.

  7. Don’t worry David, you’re most definitely mentioned by name. I believe in making space to give credit where it’s due.
    Winthrop University’s chemistry department is top-notch; a visit is a must. Glad to spread the word about a fantastic program!

  8. Andrea — I too replied to your colleague, within about 10 minutes of receiving the email from Anton to the SCONC list serve. The editor called me a few hours later and signed me up. So email was lagging behind twitter in that case, but speedy none the less.
    Bora — I think one important component to this new network of journos and writers finding sources is that of TRUST. If someone I don’t know tweets or emails me to check out so-and-so I may or may not pay attention to it. If it’s someone I know, or someone who I know has a good reputation in their field, I’ll give it consideration. If it’s someone I’ve never heard of, I may look into it but with a large does of skepticism, or I may forget the suggestion all together.

  9. And, when the article was published, Cassie tweeted about it:
    “My latest contribution to CLT Observer’s SciTech section – the chem of herbal medicines, w/ wisdom from @abelpharmboy http://bit.ly/9h3o6U