Tools and Wisdom from Science Online 2012

I am a student. Formally of journalism and of geography but informally of the world. We all are. The best part about being a student of the world is that every person you meet is a teacher. So the great characteristic of Science Online 2012 was that for three days, I got to surround myself with teachers who have invested a lot of time knowing about the very things I want to make into a career. As a journalist-in-training, here are some of the tools and wisdom I picked up in Raleigh last week:


  • Tool: using deep listening to turn 60 minutes of talk into a one-page visual. This is my attempt at sketchnoting the “History of science as a tool for science journalists” session.

  • Wisdom: Visual thinking is popular and employable.

Investigative Journalism



  • Submitting a FOIA early on in an investigation is a red flag because your FOIA is a public document, searchable and viewable by everyone.
  • Though a journalist’s ultimate responsibility is to readers, not sources, you must have trust as a central part of your relationship with sources.

Data Journalism



  •  Choices on how to display data should first be intellectual, not aesthetic.
  • Finding a story in data boils down to locating trends and then the exceptions to a trend.
  • Data is a character in the story. Interview it.

Journalism, full stop


  • Adding context is not an “extra,” it’s vital to your story.
  • If you can’t tweet the topic of your piece, then you don’t know what it’s about.
  • The rise of social media may be altering an audience’s perception of what journalism is supposed to be.

Bonus: Awesome (and free) presentation tool if you plan to use many internet tabs:

Beyond all of these “take-aways,” the best part of the conference were the chats. I met people that I would love to see again and will enjoy working with, which is a great feeling when you’re just entering a career. A huge huge thanks to Science Online volunteer organizers Bora Zivkovic, Karyn Traphagen, and Anton Zuiker.


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