You can say that you care about accurate, compelling science storytelling, and that you’re concerned about science journalism’s future as a profession. You can talk about the best ways for journalists to get scientists to open up about their work, or about the need in newsrooms to master interactive tools and big data and capitalize on social media. But who’s out there on the Web actually writing about these things, week in and week out?
The Open Notebook, that’s who.
Since 2010, the non-profit website has been providing educational tools and resources to sharpen the professional skills of science journalists at all experience levels. It’s home to detailed interviews with science journalists who dissect their own story-creation process, deep reported features on the challenges of the craft, “day in the life” features where science journalists share their habits and tricks, and even an advice column and a pitch database giving examples of successful feature queries.
It’s a fantastic resource for science journalists, whether they’re veterans or greenhorns. Yet it’s all a labor of love on the part of co-founders Siri Carpenter and Jeanne Erdmann—who act as the The Open Notebook’s volunteer editor-in-chief and editor-at-large, respectively—with help from associate editor Aaron Brooks. The Open Notebook crew has won grants from the National Association of Science Writers and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, but that money goes to commissioning stories and paying for copyediting and mentoring of TON’s fellows, rather than supporting the site’s operations or expansion.
That’s why I’m excited to report today that Knight Science Journalism at MIT is joining forces with The Open Notebook as its flagship financial supporter.
Under a one-year pilot agreement, Siri and Jeanne will use $60,000 in funds from KSJ to shore up and expand operations. For the first time, they’ll be able to start paying themselves a little something for their editorial and project-management work. Just as important, they’ll expand the number of interviews, reported articles, essays, commentaries, and analyses they’re publishing.
In return, Knight Science Journalism will be able to cross-post articles from The Open Notebook, strengthening our own offerings on the KSJ website. We’ve put the first phase of this content-sharing agreement into operation today. You’ll see a new link to The Open Notebook in our site’s top-level menu, and we’re showing a feed of The Open Notebook’s most recent posts on our front page. In the future, we’ll reproduce the full content of the articles from The Open Notebook that we fund in a new section of the site.
Incoming KSJ director Deborah Blum and I have been working with Siri and Jeanne behind the scenes for months to formalize this collaboration to support the fantastic work that The Open Notebook is doing for the whole science journalism profession. I couldn’t be more pleased that the KSJ is now contributing to the organization’s stability and growth.
When we put the KSJ Tracker on hiatus at the end of 2014, we said that the change was part of a larger plan to rethink KSJ’s public outreach programs and focus on the profession’s needs today. This new collaboration with The Open Notebook is an important part of that, and we invite you to follow along here and at theopennotebook.com as the relationship takes root and begins to flower.