The Knight Science Journalism Program is pleased to announce a major update to its acclaimed Knight Science Journalism Science Editing Handbook: the addition of three new chapters focusing on issues ranging from essay writing to misinformation.
The expanded version of the book is now available on KSJ’s handbook website. Since the free, downloadable resource came online just over a year ago, more than 50,000 people from around the world have viewed the resource. Teachers, students, reporters, editors and members of the public have clicked on, downloaded, read and written about the handbook and their appreciation for its content. And it was this enthusiastic response that drove the decision to make the book an even richer resource.
The original book consists of twelve chapters, on subjects ranging from understanding statistics to editing controversial science. Those chapters are also available in Spanish and Portuguese editions of the handbook, and KSJ is planning add the new chapters in those languages by summer’s end. – as well as offering translations in French, Chinese and Farsi later this year.
The new chapters are written by three highly respected science journalists – Ashley Smart, Yasmin Tayag, and Neel V. Patel – and address such important issues as editing op-eds and essays, handling misinformation, and covering popular science.
Ashley Smart’s chapter on opinion writing insightfully distills the how editors should approach and think about science-based op-eds (and really, all op-eds). Smart, the associate director of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT, captures the essence of the op-ed when he says such essays should “ignite a conversation, perhaps one the public didn’t even realize it needed to have.” He then explains how to do just that — from developing smart op-ed ideas, to finding the right authors, to editing op-eds so that they aren’t simply provocative, but are truly adding to the public discourse.
Of course, one problem with the public discourse today is the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation. And as Yasmin Tayag, a freelance science journalist, writes, that is a problem science journalism is not immune from. In fact, as Tayag writes, science journalism may be both a greater target for misinformation and bear a greater responsibility for addressing it. How do to so in a way that neither promulgates more misinformation nor lets it fester and grow in the shadows is the trick. While there may not be an absolute cure for the disease, Tayag offers myriad ways science journalists can and should address the issue and help keep the problem at bay. From “pre-bunking” to source selection to avoiding misinformation traps and pitfalls, Tayag’s chapter gives editors a few tools to use.
Neel V. Patel’s chapter on popular science is useful for any journalists who find themselves writing about the science that captures the public’s imagination, such as the recently released James Webb Space Telescope images like the one at the top of this very post. Such science stories are great ways to engage with a broad audience, teach them some science and maybe bring them back for more. Patel provides several tips — and things to avoid — when doing just that. From finding ways to make challenging concepts more relatable to avoiding jargon, Patel outlines strategies editors can employ that will keep your readers coming back for more.
“We are glad that so many people have found the handbook to be a valuable resource,” said Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT. “And we hope the new chapters and additional translations will help the handbook become even more useful to even more editors and other journalists around the world.
KSJ is grateful for the support of the Kavli Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education for making this handbook and its related endeavors possible.