Write, Blog, Tweet
Writing is essential. Plus, it’s fun! There will be weekly writing assignments. Some will be informal blogposts, others in-class exercises, and a few will be traditional written assignments. Since writing on deadline is a key point of this class, grades will be dropped at least a half-point if you miss deadline. The later an assignment is handed in, the more the grade will fall.
- Goal: Hone your craft→ The only way to get better at writing is to practice.
- Format: Your written assignments will consist of in-class exercises, three blogposts, three short news pieces (250 to 400-words, see below), and one 800-1,200 feature story.
- Grading: Written work will be graded on accuracy, objectivity, news judgment, quality of reporting and writing, use of quotes, and creativity. Effort and improvement will count in your favor. All assignments must be submitted on LATTE by 2pm E.T. on their respective due dates.
These days, most science journalists start honing their craft by blogging. Over the course of the semester, students will be required to keep a blog. Blogs are the sandbox where writers get to try out new things. (Write short. Write long. Write in the 1st person. Write in the 3rd.) The best blogposts make succinct, well-informed, and well-researched points.
- 1) Write for a popular audience with a high school level of scientific fluency;
- 2) Translate the esoteric into the digestible while making a specific argument;
- 3) Have fun discussing scientific issues you encounter in other classes or outside of school. Each blogpost should have a stated point and students should stick to it. In other words, keep it specific.
- *Pro Tip: Don’t tackle the entire health care debate. Instead, discuss an interesting case of one kind of patient in one town in Massachusetts. Don’t write the definitive story on creationism in American schools. Rather, point us to an interesting and newsworthy story from a specific school district.
- Format: The class blog, https://blogs.brandeis.edu/jour130b/, will be hosted on WordPress on the Brandeis network. It will be private. Every student will have a login. If you have any problems with the basics of publishing blogposts on WordPress, read this. The blog’s format is very flexible. Students can publish:
- 1) Listicles of science stories they’re reading, watching or hearing, e.g. “Top 5 science podcast episodes I listened to this month”;
- 2) Brief, informal posts about scientific studies students find interesting and why, e.g. “Why the Zika virus may not be the only thing to blame for Brazil’s spike in microcephaly cases”;
- 3) A pointed reaction piece to a certain scientific issues circulating in the media, be it a new diet or a political talking point, e.g. “What Marco Rubio forgot to say during last night’s debate about how he’s fighting sea level rise in Florida.”
- Grading: Though students are encouraged to blog weekly, only three blogposts will be submitted for grading. Though they’ll be posted to the student blog, submit the published URL to Aleszu by 2pm E.T. on January 26, March 1, and March 29. Feel free to tweet it!
Twitter is a great venue for sharing stories, finding stories, joining discussions and finding sources. It’s also a great place for young writers to get noticed and join conversations halfway around the world.
- Goal: Sharing stories, finding stories, joining discussions and finding sources. Demonstrating you’ve found, read and are capable of summarizing science stories.
- Format: Students will be expected to tweet science stories they are reading in between class meetings. Before every class meeting, every student will be expected to tweet at least one story they have read that week to me @aleszubajak or use the hashtag #JOUR130B. A headline and a link will suffice. Providing extra context is better. Emojis are fine, too. If you find yourself drawing comparisons between stories or themes, tweet the connections you’re making. Come prepared to explain what your story is about, why it’s important and, in general terms, how it was reported. You must use this hashtag or mention @aleszubajak or I won’t be able to find your tweet! *Students with privacy concerns should feel free to create a private or anonymous Twitter account. Twitter is public: be careful what you write!
- Grading: Twitter activity will be counted towards your participation grade. Students must come to class prepared to explain, in a few sentences, the science stories they’ve read and tweeted.
This course will be heavily discussion-based so attendance and participation is expected at every class. We will be sharing ideas about the profession, stories we read, debates we’ve heard, and each other’s written work, both during class and on the class website. Every class will start with a discussion of topical science stories you’ve tweeted using the hashtag #JOUR130B or by tweeting at @aleszubajak. You must use this hashtag or mention @aleszubajak or I won’t be able to find your tweet! Though every student will be required to tweet at least one story before class, we’ll only discuss a handful.