About the assignments
Event coverage: Every journalist has to do this: Hit the streets and sniff out a story. You will attend an off-campus seminar or a talk involving an issue related to science, health, environment or technology. Check out events listings at Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern, M.I.T., the Broad Institute, etc. Diana Crow’s Cambridge/Boston science events calendar is a fantastic resource. With notebook in hand, you will record the what, where, who, when, why, and how of the event. You will also write down quotes and details from the event, for extra color to add to your story (think of these details as the glue). Write a succinct 150-word story about the event. Try to include the most compelling information at the top. To help you organize your story, think about how you would describe this event and its importance to your apathetic uncle at Thanksgiving. You will learn writing, note-taking, observation, and style. These will be due February 2.
Build a news story: We will begin this in class. You will be provided a set of facts, quotes, and some language about the story’s context. You will construct a story using only paper and pen. What will you include? What will you leave out of the story? You will learn writing, format, style, and editing. *For the next class meeting (on February 9), you will bring in a polished, 250-word version of the story and including mentions of two directly related studies and explain why you’ve included them, i.e. why are they important?
Your news story: Now that you’ve built a story from scratch using facts, quotes and context provided to you, you’ll employ the same skills to writing a story of your own. Themes and leads will be provided by Aleszu, unless you’d like to pitch him your own story idea. Don’t forget to include the who, what, when, where, how, and why, and get to those as early as possible. Remember the inverted pyramid. Include a compelling lede to draw readers in and make sure to attribute every fact and quote to somewhere or someone. You will learn research, sourcing, interviewing, note-taking, organization, editing, fact-checking, and formatting. The story will be 400-words. Be sure to include at least one human source and at least one scientific study. (The study should be peer reviewed and appear in a major scientific journal. It should probably be written by the source you interview.) The pitch is due February 23 and the final draft is due March 8.
Feature story: The feature story is your capstone project and will demonstrate fluency in the mechanics of writing a piece of science journalism. It will also show a deep understanding of the issue you’re reporting on, as well as an appreciation of the nuances of the context and argument surrounding that scientific issue. Your feature story will tackle a series of new scientific studies or a new scientific trend. Your story must include 1) a point, an argument, a thesis, if you will; 2) at least two human sources; 3) at least two scientific studies or reports. The idea for your story will be pitched to Aleszu by March 15. The outline is due April 5 and the final draft will be 800–1,200-words, due May 10.