Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Genes and Climate Change: Recognizing Great Science Writing

Every year the American Association for the Advancement of Science gives out awards to journalists to acknoledge great achievement in the area of science reporting to the general public. What makes these writers so good? What do they have in common? Why is it important to recognize science wrting to a genral audience? These are all questions one may ask of the AAAS, and questions which deserve to be answered.

The first three awards for 2009, for "Large Newspaper" articles which received over 100,000 copies, had to do with genetics and biology. What made these articles particulaly spectacular was their ability to describe immensly detailed and profound research and findings in ways that any adult could understand. This was achieved very sublty using a combination of images, metaphors, and analogies. By relating a complex theory or idea with a simple to understand idea or concept, the reader can gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of the topic. This method of writing was prevelant in all of the newspaper articles. Additionally, the articles made a point to answer the "so what" question that all readers have.

This "so what" question was especially important in the online publications. Online content allows for the author to include links to other content, show pictures and other multimedia, and by doing so draw readers into the article. In the online publication titled "Bangladesh: Where the climate exodus begins", the following image is used to draw out the pathos of the reader.


Similar techniques are used in other posts in order to give relevance to the subject matter which will make the general public want to keep reading. The use of such techniques of writing, media presentation, as well as the overall presentation is what made these publications very compelling to the general public while still conveying science in a meaningful and accurate way and thus makes them deserving of praise and recognition by the scientific and journalism communities.

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