Coming to News Stands Near You / Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

[A statue of Charles Darwin. CGP Grey/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

First things first: This August you’ll be able to buy a piece of my writing (on real paper) at a bookstore or newsstand near you! 

I have a front-of-book story about bacterial biofilms and how we can attack them with sugar-cutting enzymes out in the August issue of Scientific American.

You could read it online OR you could do me and all other emerging science writers a solid by buying an actual copy of one of our flagship magazines. 

Or you could do us a digital solid by purchasing a digital subscription to an outlet that pays us. (If you’re curious about why I’m so adamant about outlets that pay me making bank, read Bethany Brookshire’s excellent spiel on the subject.)

Also, over at Lateral, we have a new history & philosophy article out about why “Darwin Didn’t Delay” by the awesome Andrew Katsis. It’s part of Lateral’s SLOW issue and the first history & philosophy piece to debut with me as editor, so I hope you check it out!

But onward into the future! A few days ago, I internet-stumbled across a post by journalist Jennifer Brandel. Her company, Hearken, helps news outlets reach out to audience members and ask for story ideas! And not in a “Please-take-this-five-minute-survey way. As in, audience members can submit questions, participate in reporting, and give feedback to the journalists who are writing the story. 

Immediately, I realized that’s the sort of process I want to incorporate on this blog. 

After all, the closest thing has to a mission statement is “What’s a Brown Bag Lunch Recap?” wherein I wrote:

"My goal for these recaps is to break down the complicated ideas expressed in scientific jargon in to terms that non-scientists can understand, while also giving them an idea of what conversations between scientists are like.

These recaps aren’t objective; they’re not meant to be. (They’re usually not short, either).  But I hope that by reading them, my web audience will learn more about both the topics scientists are investigating and how the scientists think about/communicate about those topics."

And even though I’m specifically talking about the recap series there, helping people understand how scientists (and science writers) think and how science happens is still a core mission for this blog.

Instead of repeatedly falling down my own personal rabbit-holes-of-interest, I want to research and write blog posts that will resonate with you.

Brandel’s  Medium account is chock-full of delightfully insightful posts on how to do just that, but to give you a taste of her M.O. here’s a quote:

"What is the purpose of journalism? Answers are infinite, but the American Press Institute’s definition offers a solid starting point. It says the purpose “is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.” So, if that definition resonates, then a better question newsrooms could focus on answering is this:

What does our community not know that we could help them find out and understand?

To answer this question, journalists have to start by listening to their audience. They have to ask: “What don’t you know? What do you want to know? Why do you want or need to know it?” In the process, reporters grant their audience a voice and affirm their ability to determine their own needs. By starting stories with the audience’s stated information needs, reporters then can know whether their stories are truly relevant"

-Jennifer Brandel, "Give the Audience What They Want Or What They Need? There's an even better question." 
So, my dear blog readers, what do you want to know about?  What persistent questions do you wonder about? 

When I asked my Facebook friends, one of them wrote, Impending extinction of bees- what can prevent?”  When I asked my Twitter feed, one of my tweeps wanted to know “How much caffeine is in cascara (coffee-cherry tea)?” 

I know more about bees than I do about caffeine, but there’s a good chance you’ll see posts about those two topics coming up soon!

Other potential upcoming posts this week include (a) “5 Things Scientists Have Learned About Mitochondria in 2016”,  (b) “These Neurons Control Lab Mice’s Weight, And That’s Not the Weirdest Thing About Them…” (c) “Underrated Organs: The Pancreas Revisited”  and (d) “7 Things Science Writers Can Learn from Beyoncé”. 

And option (d) is not a joke. I am dead-serious about ideas from Beyoncé-ology being useful for science writers.

However, this blog is meant to be read. It’s not for me; it’s for you.  So let me know what you want to see on this blog–whether it’s feedback on the ideas above or  questions you want me to look into! Sound off in the comments below.



  1. Jerry Crockett

    For years a couple simple questions have intrigued me. Question 1: At it’s frothy quantum weirdest, what is space? There are competing theories, each with compelling advocates. Some posit plank length multidimensional vibrating strings while others suggest quantum loop gravity… Is a consensus emerging ? What is the fundamental essence of these dimensions we inhabit and how many dimensions are most likely? Question two: Has research in prebiotic chemistry discovered the path by which complex self replicating proteins evolved? Is it likely there were a multiplicity of paths to RNA and DNA or are there other viable intermediate evolutionary pathways to cellular transcription and replication. Essentially, how likely is life? Just a couple questions.

  2. Adia

    I’d enjoy reading about: (a) “5 Things Scientists Have Learned About Mitochondria in 2016”, (b) “These Neurons Control Lab Mice’s Weight, And That’s Not the Weirdest Thing About Them…”

  3. Nola Taylor Redd

    Just stumbled onto your website from the NASW post. I can’t wait to spend more time browsing through it. I love this idea; what a terrific way to really touch base with your audience. I’ll have to spend a bit more time browsing before I come back with a suggestion, but I’m looking forward to it.

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