Northern California Science Writers Association

WORKSHOP: New Directions in Science Writing

  • Saturday, April 25, 2009
  • 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
  • UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism North Gate Hall
On April 25, the Northern California Science Writers Association (NCSWA) presents a one-day workshop open to Bay Area journalists, aspiring journalists, and students. Come learn how some of the most successful writers approach their work and the tools of the trade they rely on.  Established journalists and editors will discuss topics ranging from reporting long narrative features to the art of the infographic to the transition from journalist to book author. We’ll also explore other work available to science writers, including writing for non-profits and working for other science-based institutions, from universities to corporations.

Cost: $32.00 for professionals, $22.00 for students
The registration fee includes morning coffee, a box lunch, and food and drinks at the reception. Space is limited, so register early.

April 25, 2009 Workshop

Professional Rate $32.00
    Student Rate $22.00

9:30am-10:00am:       Registration & Coffee / Light Fare

10:00am-10:45am:     Plenary
Michelle Nijhuis, an award-winning freelance science and environmental journalist, has written for National Geographic, the New York Times, Smithsonian, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. Based in western Colorado, she is a contributing editor to High Country News and a correspondent for the environmental magazine Orion. Her stories have been anthologized in The Best American Science Writing. Her writing and reporting focus on long-term narrative stories about conservation and global change, but she also covers subjects ranging from border security to Turkish wrestling.

11:00am-12:00am:     Concurrent Sessions 1

1A) Graphic journalism: The art of the “charticle”
From Wired to Mother Jones to Backpacker to Harper’s, “charticles” or graphic articles have become front-of-book mainstays. Our panelists will discuss what goes into finding, pitching, and landing these stories, and the art of working alongside designers to tell your story or visualize complex scientific subjects in graphic form.
Dave Gilson, senior editor, Mother Jones
Stacy Lawrence, senior writer, BioCentury
Adam Rogers, senior editor, Wired

1B) Investigative journalism for freelancers
Science writing is often seen as an explanatory form of journalism, but science also provides a fertile ground for investigation, from original analyses of documents to undercover reporting. Our panelists will talk about their experiences uncovering major scientific fraud, identifying biological research that could be misused by terrorists, investigating genetic testing and privacy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of online encyclopedias.
Peter Aldhous, San Francisco bureau chief, New Scientist
Jim Giles, correspondent for New Scientist

12:00pm-1:00pm:      Lunch (box lunch provided)

1:00am-1:10pm:        Concurrent Sessions 2

2A) Diversifying your career: Who else hires science writers
Diversifying your writing career can help you stave off burnout and provide the stability of multiple income streams during tough economic times. Our panelists will talk about the range of opportunities open for science writers, including writing for corporate clients, environmental NGOs and textbook publishersundefinednot to mention developing and writing children’s books, and managing the news from the other side of the fence, in the press offices of universities, government labs, and other institutions that conduct research.
Jenny Carless, science and technology writer for non-profits, educational institutions and corporate clients
Susan Davis, health, medicine and environmental writer for magazines, non-profits, corporate clients
Don Gibbons, chief communications officer, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Mary Miller, science writer and web producer, Exploratorium

2B) Books: Pursuing, proposing, and landing your first deal
Writing a book can be an incredibly fulfilling experience and can help a journalist build a reputation of expertise in his or her area of interest. Our panelists, including published authors and an established Bay Area literasry agent, will explore the challenges and strategies for building an effective book proposal, finding an appropriate agent, and landing your first contract. Panelists will also touch on more timely topics such as eBooks, electronic rights, and the advent of Amazon’s Kindle.
Suzanne Bohan, co-author, 50 Simple Ways to Live a Longer Life (Sourcebooks)
Thomas Hayden, co-author, Sex and War (Benbella Books) and On Call in Hell (NAL Hardcover)
Ted Weinstein, literary agent, Ted Weinstein Literary Management

2:20-3:40pm: Concurrent Sessions 3

3A) Harnessing the social media for journalists
Few journalists are active in the social online mediaundefinedand yet they provide powerful tools for sharing and promoting our work and for tracking stories and finding sources. Our trainer will provide a show-and-tell tour of Facebook and a quick introduction to Twitter, punctuated with case studies on how journalists have used these tools well (and occasionally, not so well) to report stories which otherwise might have been difficult to uncover.
Rhyen Coombs, trainer, Knight Digital Media Center

3B) Narrative journalism: Reporting & interviewing
It’s one thing to find an interesting science story, but how do you go the extra mile to find a story that will also make for great narrative reading? Our speakers will talk about how they search out their narrative pearls, and the kind of interviewing, reporting, and digging it takes to flesh out the characters, scenes, and anecdotes that make for a real page turner.
Joshua Davis, contributing editor, Wired
Jennifer Kahn, contributing editor, Wired     
Michelle Nijhuis, contributing editor, High Country News

3:40pm-4:30pm:        Closing reception (snacks and beverages provided)

Questions: Contact


If you drive, parking is $12. There are two parking structures on Hearst Ave., one below Euclid Ave. near Scenic Ave. and one above Euclid Ave. at Gayley Rd. (Called Lower Hearst Parking Structure and Upper Hearst Parking Structure on the map below). This is the only all-day parking in the area.

We urge participants to take BART. From the downtown Berkeley station, head east – toward the hills. A ten-to-15-minute walk will get you to Northgate Hall.
Bart Station is on Shattuck Ave., indicated in lower left on the map. Northgate Hall is on the north edge of the campus, along Hearst Ave. Hearst is a straight street, left to right, in upper part of map.

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