Being a Science Journalist

Got questions about science journalism? The Knight Science Journalism program has compiled this list to provide an overview of everything from academic and other training programs to books that offer guidance and advice. The list is not intended to be comprehensive but rather to give both science journalists and others interested in exploring the profession an idea of what resources are out there. If you have a suggestion for an addition, please contact us and let us know.
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So you’re thinking about becoming a science writer?

Not everyone wants or needs a degree in science writing but it does offer advantages, not only honing your craft but the ability to make industry connections, hone your craft, and to build relationships with your future colleagues. The most prominent science journalism master’s programs include:

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So you’re thinking about going to science writing grad school?

Not everyone wants or needs a degree in science writing but it does offer advantages, not only honing your craft but the ability to make industry connections, hone your craft, and to build relationships with your future colleagues. Many journalism programs at both the undergrad and graduate level offer courses and concentrations in covering science, technology, and health. This directory of science communication courses, for example — compiled in 2013 — is searchable by location. The most prominent science journalism master’s programs in the U.S. include:

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So you want to learn more about the craft and business of science journalism?

You’re not alone. Journalists spend a lot of time reading, writing, tweeting, and Facebooking about future directions for the field and techniques for good story telling. Here are a few of the favored sources for such information:

  • The Nieman Journalism Lab   A project of the Nieman program at Harvard University to report on and explore new and evolving models of journalism. Includes analysis of new technology, trends, recommendations and an encyclopedia/archive.
  • The Open Notebook  A non-profit supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and The Knight Science Journalism Foundation, which features advice, interviews, and how-to guides for science journalists. Also includes a database of feature story pitches, so new writers can learn how to pitch science features.
  • The Poynter Institute A website maintained by the Florida-based Poynter Institute, which provides general media news, trend and tool analysis, webinars and other training opportunities
  • Storybench A collaboration between Northeastern University’s School of Journalism and Esquire Magazine which assesses and offers information on digital journalism, from data visualization projects to interactive documentaries.
  • The Science Writer’s Handbook blog, derived from a book published in 2013 (see detailed listing below)

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So you’d rather read a book than a website?

We recommend these books on science writing and journalism as a starter-resource library:

  • The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age. Thomas Hayden & Michelle Nijhuis, eds. (2013)
  • News and Numbers: A Writer’s Guide to Statistics. Victor Cohn & Lewis Cope, eds. (2011)
  • A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers. Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson, & Robin Marantz Henig, eds. (2005)
  • Best American Science and Nature Writing, series editor, Tim Folger, published annually by Houghton-Mifflin.
  • Science Blogging: The Essential Guide. Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire, & Jason G. Goldman, eds.

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So you want to meet other science journalists?

There’s no substitute for meeting editors and fellow reporters in person. Most major journalism organizations have annual conferences.  If you want to connect with science writers in a global sense, it’s worth checking out the website of the World Federation of Science Journalists [WFSJ],. WFSJ partners with science writing associations around the world to host the World Conference of Science Journalists every other year. Locations have ranged from Helsinki, Finland to Seoul, South Korea; the 2017 WCSJ will be held in San Francisco, CA.  And there are many other options for North American science writers. Here are a few of the largest U.S. organizations on science-related beats:

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So you’re looking for a fellowship?

Knight Science Journalism Fellowships aren’t the only game in town. There are lots of opportunities for both early career and mid-career journalists. These include the Cissy Patterson Endowment for Science and Environmental Writers and AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance, both of which focus on a yearlong project.
More general journalism fellowships include:
Mid-career

Early career

Others