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Subject:Scientific Journalism From:Michael Michalchik <C6H10N2O2 -at- AOL -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 17 Nov 1998 23:48:24 EST
I am new to this group and just starting to think seriously about writing for
money. I am most interested in Scientific Journalism. I define "Scientific
Reporting discoveries, events, and innovations in science and technology, in a
way that is appropriate for popular and secondary journals, magazines, and
I asked your moderator if this was an appropriate topic for this group and he
kindly replied yes. Nevertheless, I searched your archives and I saw very
little on this subject. I was hoping to ask a few questions and get some
opinions on how I should go about this.
Please forgive my indulgence, I think that it might be appropriate to describe
a little about why I want to try this.
1) I love learning about science and can quickly absorb most things.
2) I have tutored for money and fun and I have been often told that I am very
good at explaining things in a clear and interesting manner.
3) People generally like my writing, but I have been criticized by professors
for having too much dramatic flare in my science writing. These are
liabilities in primary literature but I think they might be assets in
4) My personality is apparently too flighty for the office or laboratory.
5) I need a job!
6) I have a 5 year old boy and a wife in medical school so I need a flexible
I have a BS in biology. Four years of Doctoral Study in Neuroscience (No
Degree). I have spent the last 2 years working odd jobs in computer science -
Programming, Computer Repair, and I wrote the textbook for a class on Database
Design for the New Horizons Corporation. They paid me 1,300 dollars for 35,000
words and 40 diagrams. My wife says they took advantage of me.
Ideally, I'd like to start writing and reporting short science news summaries
for a magazines like Science News, Discover, Newspapers or some Online
Service. IMHO I think I also could do a descent job writing the various Made
Simple, Idiots Guides, Dummies Books. Perhaps "Genetic Engineering for
So my questions are:
1) The Writer's Freelancing Guide has been recommended for beginners in
Technical Writing. Do you think that it would be relevant to what I want to
2) How should I approach prospective employers?
A) Should search for want ads, or go after the organizations I want?
B) Do magazines and online news services accept work on a contract basis?
C) Should I approach the Editor or Human Resources?
D) My resume is pretty weak with regard to writing. Should I send writing
samples with it? Ask them to assign me a short topic that I'll do for free?
Just send a cover letter and a writing sample?
3) Does it make sense for me to join the STC?
4) Anything else I should do to improve my prospects?
Well, I hope all this babbling about myself hasn't seemed too narcissistic. I
really appreciate any help you can give me. My wife thinks I am nuts, so tell
me if I am.