The ONA13 will be held in Atlanta this year, on October 17-19th. Unfortunately, there is rarely anything on the program that specifically touches on science or health journalism, despite it being a somewhat different - and difficult - area of journalism with some very specific challenges.
Luckily you, the community of science and health readers, can help out. The Program is, at least partially, built through community vote. You can see all the session proposals here. You can ‘vote’ for any of them by clicking on the little heart icon (the “Like” on Tumblr) and/or by reblogging it on your own Tumblr. If you scroll down again and again and again, you will finally reach the only science-related proposal: Science and Health Go Social: What Journalists Need to Know.
You can help this session become a part of the official program by liking and reblogging it, perhaps adding your own commentary.
- Barbara Glickstein, Health journalist, public health nurse and the Co-Director of The Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College City of New York.
- and me.
So, just click here and ‘heart’ the proposal and help us get there and start a discussion on challenges specific to science and health reporting in the rapidly evolving new media ecosystem.
Increasing numbers of scientists, health care experts and beat reporters turn first to Twitter and blogs for new research and policy developments — before they consult peer-reviewed journals or EurekaAlert. And social media is where the action is for debate and discussion about science, medical and health news.
But how can journalists on deadline separate signal from noise in a world inhabited by billions of content creators, some more credible than others? And how can reporters use social media to improve their own efficiency and accuracy when covering health, medicine and science.
The three presenters are outstanding in their fields and will be new to the ONA program:
Barbara Glickstein, New York. Health journalist, public health nurse, feminist activist, public radio host and producer, global citizen. Leveraging media, strategic partnerships, and new technologies for real social change. Co-Director, The Center for Health, Media & Policy, Hunter College City of New York. http://mediahealth.wordpress.com
Maryn McKenna, Atlanta, Author of SUPERBUG (2010) and BEATING BACK THE DEVIL (2004). Blogger for Wired, columnist for Scientific American, long-form magazine journalist. Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. http://MarynMcKenna.com, http://sired.com/wiredscience/superbug
Bora Zivkovic, Raleigh. Editor at Scientific American, blogger, organizer of ScienceOnline conferences, series editor of The Open Laboratory, trained biologist and college teacher, visiting scholar at NYU School of Journalism. http://coturnix.org, http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/a-blog-around-the-clock
Three influential bloggers, authors and thinkers will take participants into the tumultuous world of science and social media. These are highly energetic and opinionated group leaders who will use lavish illustration, disagree among themselves and do whatever it takes to engage participants who will leave saying, “Wow, I never knew how to do that before.”
Hello, friends. Many of you have helped me by reaching out to your personal contacts who work at Twitter or Dreamhost, and some have even written angry letters to them. I appreciate this support. Although it hasn’t had any visible impact yet, there must be a point at which it can break through the…
Somewhere I have a list of books I have read back in the 1990s or so, that I kept for a few years. It should exist as a Word document somewhere, on some old hard drive, probably unrecoverable any more…
One of the mistakes I made initially was to place too strict criteria on which book I can add to the list - I decided I have to have read at least 90% of it, preferably 100%. But I don’t read that way any more. I start many books, but finish quite a few.
The way paper is cut and the way books are bound requires certain lengths for a book which publishers insist on. So books are 200 pages long although they should have been 60 pages long (which may be the reason many Kindle Singles and eBooks seem to be better than traditional ones - they are the appropriate lengths demanded by the subject, not by the format). Once I have read enough of a book, I put it down. In my mind, I have “read” the book, but it can’t make the list. I also don’t have my own tablet or book-reader yet - I still prefer the old style on paper.
I also want to keep books as references - and most of what I read these days are non-fiction (or quite technical) books anyway, so they are meant to be more like references than novels are. Even if I just skimmed through a book, I usually know what is in there. Sometimes I need something from it. I hope the Index is good, but if it’s not I can skim again, re-read bits and pieces, or just “search inside the book” on Amazon in order to find (and perhaps quote) the relevant passage.
Finally, with my time spent mostly online, I don’t leave enough time (and frankly do not have enough patience any more) for reading entire books. I have always loved stories. So I may remember a story I have not read in many years. I pick up the collection that contains it, read just that story in order to see how intervening years have changed me and how that changes the way I understand the story and the way story affects and moves me. It can be a collection of SF stories, or one of my favorite story writers (e.g., Kafka, Borges, Twain, Poe, H.G.Wells, Chekhov, some Balkans authors), or someone I discovered more recently (Bailey White, Barbara Kingsolver…). Or it can be a collection of essays. Then I put the book back - but cannot add it to the List.
I am enjoying Becky Crew’s new book (“Zombie Tits and Astronaut Fish and Other Weird Animal Stories”) very much because I can pick it up at any time, read one or two stories, and put it down. It does not require reading it through in one sitting…
In some hard-to-find notebook, I also have a list of movies Catharine and I saw during the first couple of years of our life together. I wish I continued with that list as well.
What happened to my movie watching? I don’t know. I used to watch a lot of movies. Seeing a new movie was a habit in Belgrade, even if some movies arrived with some delay.
The Museum of Cinema, owned by the School of Drama at the Belgrade University, had its own movie theater. The tickets were dirt-cheap, they served the best food and beer and wine of all theaters in town, and one could get in for free with a student ID (which I had for ten years!). They’d have a week of Kurosawa, and I’d go and see every movie (2-3 per day for a week), or a Woody Allen marathon day, or Japanese week, etc. I would go and watch a lot of that historical stuff. From Eisenstein to Chaplin, from Venders to Fellini to Bunjuel. I saw Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ and Bergman’s ‘Seventh Seal’ probably every time they showed either one of it, at least once per year. And ‘Hair’ and ‘Enter the Dragon’ and ‘Midnight Express’ and ‘Susan and Jeremy’ ;-)
So I got a good education in movie history.
When I first moved from Belgrade to Raleigh, Catharine and I went to see movies all the time. There were several art houses around, so we would see both Holywood hits and foreign/artsy movies. Even later, when kids were born, we had good babysitters and went to see movies pretty regularly.
I think we stopped, quite abruptly, when we moved from Raleigh to Chapel Hill. While we continued taking the kids to family-fare movies (up the street, literally walking one block to the theater), we found it difficult to get ourselves to drive out to artsy theaters, far away and hard to find parking, so we kinda quit.
April-November, the neighborhood theater also projects “movies on the green”, outdoors, and we saw a bunch of family-appropriate movies that way. Heck, I saw the third part of Lord of the Rings just by walking the dogs around the green for two hours.
I am also a horrible movie critic. I just sit back and enjoy. Sure, great movies are great. But I totally enjoy crap movies as well (but I hated ‘Crash’). Back when Catharine was still working as a nurse, she worked only night shifts. I’d watch C-grade giant mutant monster movies on scifi channel if I could not sleep, and I LOVED them!
But over the last couple of years, especially since we moved to the new house in the woods, we watch much less. Or, to be precise, I watch much less. I may take kids to see a movie a couple of times a year - but now they are big enough to go on their own with their friends. Catharine and I may go, once or twice a year, to see something that does not play in mainstream theaters, e.g., “Inside Job” and a couple of others last year. But she watches the movies a lot on her laptop, has Netflix account, and in general watches ten times more movies than I do. I find it difficult to focus for two hours any more, and find it hard to pull myself away from the Web and be persuaded to go see a movie. I cannot watch on laptop - totally distracted.
Sometimes only one of us would take the kids to see a movie, and even now we often take kids to movies one-on-one (e.g., I saw Hobbit a couple of weeks ago just with my daughter, while the rest of the family did not see it, and then wife and daughter saw Les Miserables which the rest of us did not yet see).
But I sure wish I kept track. And may re-start the list again. But first I have to get back into habit of watching movies regularly. I think equipping our house with a home theater is in order!
I keep going back and re-reading this. We all have stories we tell others - and ourselves - about ourselves. They are probably mostly true. But the way they are framed, the way they are told, the decisions we make where to begin and where to end each story, what details to include and what details to omit, where to embellish and where to stick strictly to the truth - all those are important, though subconscious decisions we make in order to present ourselves in the way we want to see ourselves and want others to see us. I rarely write personal stories. I may briefly inject personal anecdotes into my blog posts here and there (hard to find amidst 100,000+ posts I have written on multiple blogs), but rarely write just personal stories. If I write one on Facebook (like I did yesterday: https://www.facebook.com/coturnix/posts/454541837939433 ) that goes down the page fast and is hard to retrieve.
But I do have my “standard” stories I tell about myself. Those stories got polished over time as I repeat them. I have shorter and longer versions of those stories. And yes, I have stories that I never tell, or tell only to very few, very special people.
But, one thing that bothered me about the article. It tells how human mind is much better than a computer at connecting causes to effects. It uses very simple examples, e.g., “if an egg falls, it will break”. At this point I don’t really care if and why computers are bad at this, I’d rather focus on the humans. Much of cognitive psychology actually focuses on how BAD we are at this, how easily we make wrong connections and wrong causalities. Especially when things get a little more complex.
What I see as the role for narrative in science writing is exactly this, to subtly and gently dissuade us from some old, wrong, intuitive, common-sensical causalities and persuade us to adopt, accept (and take for granted as if we always thought so), more correct connections between causes and effects. We all have erroneous connections, old-wives tales we grew up with that help us make sense of the world. Saying “you are wrong, it is not X, it is Y” may encounter resistance. Some of our beliefs are quite cherished, we got them from our parents or other people who we trusted as kids. But by bringing us into the story, we don’t notice how subtly our understanding of causality changes, how easily we can be persuaded.
I keep going back and re-reading this. We all have stories we tell others - and ourselves - about ourselves. They are probably mostly true. But the way they are framed, the way they are told, the decisions we make where to begin and where to end each story, what details to include and what details to omit, where to embellish and where to stick strictly to the truth - all those are important, though subconscious decisions we make in order to present ourselves in the way we want to see ourselves and want others to see us. I rarely write personal stories. I may briefly inject personal anecdotes into my blog posts here and there (hard to find amidst 100,000+ posts I have written on multiple blogs), but rarely write just personal stories. If I write one on Facebook (like I did yesterday: https://www.facebook.com/coturnix/posts/454541837939433 ) that goes down the page fast and is hard to retrieve. Perhaps I should repost them somewhere else, e.g., my Tumblr or Posterous. But I do have my “standard” stories I tell about myself. Those stories got polished over time as I repeat them. I hav
Balkans people are a gregarious lot. And a generous lot. Kind of people who would take their shirts off their backs to give a stranger in need. Kind of people who’d kill the last chicken in order to feed a stranger. Anything less would be dishonorable. A different ethos…
At least that’s the way I remember it. I left 21 years ago and much has changed there. Two decades of wars, sanctions, bombing, economic crisis and this newfangled thing called capitalism must have affected the national temperament. Perhaps they are more frugal now, and less crazy about generosity. Perhaps today they would fit right in here, where keeping one’s own financial house in order is seen as being a good citizen (leading, at its extremes, to a view that one’s wealth is a good marker and symbol of being a good frugal provider for one’s family, thus the conservative notion that rich people are the best people).
Some families in Serbia had a completely open door policy. Someone is always at home - usually the stay-at-home wife - and there is always good food to serve. So guests are always welcome.
Both of my parents worked, and our apartment was small, so my parents preferred to plan in advance, invite people, or have people announce their arrival well ahead of time so we could be prepared, and so we could be at home and not visiting someone else or going to the theater.
Our house was seemingly always full of people. My parents seemed to know everyone in Belgrade, and had so many friends of very different kinds, from reactionary, royalist friends of my Dad, to the high creme-d-la-creme of the country’s intelligentsia, university professors, journalists, artists, people who later became members of the parliament or ministers or ran for President.
Some evenings, there would be just one or two guests. But at least two or three times a month, our house would get packed with people, perhaps a dozen or more of them filling our little apartment, using every chair we had, sometimes even neighbors’ borrowed chairs. My mother would fix large quantities of some of her famous specialties. Sometimes, that would be fish soup and fried fish, freshly caught in the Danube that morning by my father’s cousin. Sometimes it was offal, like tripe, which I did not like. Sometimes her famous chicken-bacon meatloaf. My brother and I would be allowed to stay up as long as the guests are in, listening to the interesting discussions of politics, media, and whatever else they would talk about.
Of course, one does not go visiting empty handed. Not there. So each guest would bring flowers for my Mom, a bottle of wine (or something stronger) for my Dad, and chocolate for my brother and me. Sure, store-bought gifts, but that was OK for something like this, a routine occasion, a dinner that was organized “just because”.
But for special occasions, and for special people, there was a different undercurrent of thought. As most people earned roughly the same, there was no point in buying expensive gifts just to show off one’s wealth. That was considered un-classy, insulting, even stupid - why bust one’s monthly budget on an expensive present! Why rub it in that one has more money than another, when we are all supposed to be equal?
So, for special occasions and special people, a person was more likely to do something great, like organize a big trip out of town and a party for a bunch of friends, or, if there is skill and talent, make something with one’s own hands. That is an investment of time, thought and work.
Or one would give away one of one’s own treasured possessions. Now, that’s a treasure! Usually that happened within families, the younger generations getting family heirlooms or other items that have been in the family for generations. My children have already received several such items over the years.
Buying a gift in a store, for big occasions like that, was deemed cheap. That was outsourcing time, energy and skills to someone else. Buying off one’s own time and energy. Essentially stating that one does not really care, but can compensate with money.
An old friend of my mothers’, the guy who first put me on a horse when I was five, then taught me to ride for several more years until I could go on my own, was also an accomplished classical guitar player. He usually had several good guitars at home. One day, when I was just still very young, he gave me his smallest, cheapest guitar as a birthday present. That was in hope I would start learning to play. A couple of years later, seeing that I am actually learning to play, he gave me his next guitar for birthday. A few years later, his next. A few years later, he gave me his Number Two, an amazing concert-class acoustic guitar, made in Cuba, with an inscription from the guitar-master. Unfortunately, after I left the country without the guitar, there was nobody there to take good care of it, to tune it, to monitor air humidity, etc., so over time it dried up, cracked and broke. If it was still alive today, it would have been worth several tens of thousands of dollars. But as a gift, a gift from him, an important male role model in my life, it meant so much more.
Big gift-giving time was New Years. Orthodox Christmas is ruled by the old calendar, which lags fourteen days behind the new calendar, which then places Christmas a few days after New Years. Very, very few people actually celebrated Christmas at the time, being in a socialist country in which religion, though not outlawed (seminary and churches were working just fine), was frowned upon and ridiculed.
But New Years was big. The biggest holiday of the year. People planned parties months in advance, or were hoping to get invited to the hottest parties in town. Being part of the intellectual elite, my brother and I got to go to some of the most legendary parties of the time.
Everyone had a New Years tree, decorated with New Years ornaments. The city, and each house, and each room in the house was decorated. Sparkles were lit. Old, fat guy clad in red, Grandpa Frost, would put New Years gifts under the New Years tree. Sounds familiar? Yup, all of the Christmas traditions and symbols were adapted for New Years instead. Those few people who celebrated Christmas only needed to wait a few more days, put some fresh presents under the tree for the kids, and serve fat-free food, like cornbread and baked beans.
New Years was also the time when, due to sheer volume of gift-giving, it was perfectly OK to give store-bought presents.
Also, for several weeks before the holiday, the city would be covered with stands where people were selling New Years cards. Everyone bought and sent cards to everyone they knew, even the first door neighbors! People loved sending and receiving cards.
Our family never bought a single card.
Instead, every year, my brother and I would make them ourselves. My father was in editing, publishing and printing business. My mother worked in the government. Both had access to plenty of office supplies. They would bring home boxes and boxes of envelopes, and stacks of thin cardboard paper.
My brother and I would grab rulers and pencils and scissors, and cut the cardboard into nice strips, then fold them to make cards.
Then we would take out all sorts of art supplies - pencils, markers, black and colored ink, charcoal, crayons, watercolors, temperas - and start drawing and painting the cards. We would make hundreds of cards. They would get sent to every address our parents could possibly find. We did all the inscribing and all the addressing as well. For friends living abroad, we’d inscribe it in English and add “Merry Christmas” on top of “Happy New Year”.
As we grew up somewhat, we started resenting this annual ritual. We could not just suddenly say no to our parents, so we started gradually reducing the numbers of cards. Instead of making one for everyone in the world, we would only make cards for people we knew well and who meant something to us. Making fewer cards also meant that we could spend more time on each card. As we were getting older, our drawing and painting skills improved. Some of the cards we made in latter years were little masterpieces. Some ended up torn, crumpled and thrown away as not perfect enough.
We both loved drawing and painting anyway. We did it all the time. A few of my childhood drawings have been saved by my mother. Looking at them now, they look childish. I have no idea if the execution was average, better or worse than expected for the age at which I made them. Of course, like every child, I was told how beautiful each piece was. But I really have no idea if I ever had talent for art, or if I just managed to do some stuff well due to sheer practice. But one thing is sure - my choices of subjects and scenes were wildly creative.
Becoming more and more horse-crazy as a kid, more and more of the New Years cards, and in the end all of them, depicted horses. In the end, I only drew horses. I got pretty good at drawing and painting horses, while never actually practicing drawing anything else any more. So I can only draw horses now. A one-trick pony, I am.
Teenage years, teenage rebellion. My brother and I quit doing cards. Our parents found alternative ways to stay in touch with their friends over the holidays. Teenage years, new teenage interests. Perhaps a girl here and there. New Years was so passe now, but a person’s birthday is a special occasion. Or graduation. And for a special occasion for a special person, one makes something with one’s hands. What do we know how to do? We know how to draw good cards. So that is what we did.
That must sound totally nuts to Americans, but that is the way of thinking I inherited. I moved from socialism to capitalism, and different values are in play. Making something with one’s own hands, something that was considered the right thing to do there, must seem crazy here, may perhaps seem suspiciously “too special”.
Yet, artists I know send their own art for holidays and birthdays, at least reproduced on cards. Musicians may send their CDs. Cooks may send cookies. Writers may send copies of their own books. I may not be a professional artist, but I can draw a horse well enough that I can make a card myself, and by doing that I would not feel ‘cheap’ for buying one at the store. It’s all mixed up in me now, after 20 years, and sometimes old ethos prevails, sometimes new, sometimes I buy a present, sometimes I make one. Buying certainly makes it easier to get stuff in bulk and send to many people, which means that each one of them means less.
And then, in light of the article I linked here: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/the-christmas-card-may-or-may-not-die-but-its-spirit-has-conquered-us-all/266471/ , as the Web and social media make it so much easier to send virtual greetings, do hand-made gifts become even more “special”? Are the things in-between, the store-bought cards and presents, on the way out because they do not cater either to the superficial friendships or the deep friendships? What are the new, emerging mores of normal conduct these days? What is deemed a right thing to do? In Serbia? In the States?
Let’s talk….here: https://www.facebook.com/coturnix/posts/454541837939433
This article - http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/mythbusting-israel-and-switzerland-are-not-gun-toting-utopias/ - is useful as a counter to your pro-gun friends who trot out the examples of Israel or Switzerland (or former Yugoslavia) as countries where everyone’s packing. As it states there, it’s not true. But there is more to it….
In those countries, military service is compulsory. All men and some women spend a year or two or five in the Army. When they are on leave and go home, they are (I think, not sure about each country) allowed to take their pistol home. After all, they are on active duty, and if the small country is attacked, they are required to spring into action as the first line of defense, wherever in the country they may be. Once they finish with the military service, they are required to leave their guns behind. They may be given uniforms, gas masks, first-aid kits, that kind of stuff, but not weapons. Officers (perhaps officers above a certain rank, depending on the country, and also depending on which year/decade we are talking about as laws change), do get to take their pistols home. All of them are now reservists, and such small countries have defense doctrines that essentially mean “everyone’s a soldier in case of attack”. In case of attack, officers are already uniformed and armed, and can start organizing others. Privates know where to go, a nearby neighborhood military depot, to pick up their uniforms, weapons and other gear, then they know exactly where to go to report for duty.
This also means that half the country, at least, has military training, and a proportion of them may have weapons on them at any given time at any given place. Each country has different rules about the inclusion of women in the military (in Israel they all pretty much have to serve, not sure about Switzerland, while in former Yugoslavia only a small number of women volunteered to serve). Each country has different rules for how man can avoid military service, e.g., for religious or health reasons. I did not serve - my height-to-weight ratio was off the military charts. They did not care that, at the time, I was a super-fit top athlete in two different sports (karate and equestrian) - for military purposes I was unfit to serve. Great - I saved myself two years of life: a year in the army, plus six month before it when one ends all projects and packs up, plus six months after that is needed for one to mentally and emotionally get back into a civilian mode of life, pick up the pieces, and start reintegrating into society, start school or projects etc.
But this points out to another, much more important difference between those countries and the USA. In the military you learn something about guns. Sure, you learn how to take care of the gun, how to clean it, how to take it apart and put it back together, and how to get good at target shooting. Sure, you can learn all of that on shooting ranges and in gun clubs in the USA as well. But what military teaches is respect for guns. And respect for other soldiers. You learn what guns really are, what they do, what they can do, what they are meant to do. You are trained to think about guns in very different ways from the way you are taught about guns in your local camo-outfit, backwoods militia-type shooting club. You learn how to, and see fellow soldiers doing it, use your gun in much more realistic situations than target-shooting. If you are unlucky, you actually see war action and see what the gun can really do to a human body. You end your military service both loving your rifle and hating your rifle, but never worshipping your rifle, never having the illusion that it can do anything good for personal defense or anything else. You truly understand that it is a tool of war.
In the USA, only a very small proportion of people serve in the military, and then do not usually have guns once they get out. Here, one can learn respectful, responsible use of guns if one is a hunter, or a cop. Or one can learn from macho, paranoid militia-types, who have no idea what and why they are doing it beyond deeply-seated emotional need to make up for insecure masculinity. From people who do not understand that they ARE the government (remember: of, by and for the people) and see government as a separate entity, something they are alienated from, something they fear. Dictators? In America? Laughable paranoia.
What does that mean practically? This means that the person carrying a gun with an intent to kill civilians knows that most of the people at the scene will be unarmed and untrained to respond correctly. He will know that, even if there is someone there with a pistol, that someone is unlikely to be a soldier or policeman, trained in using the gun correctly, but probably some other gun-nut who may try to use it in order to be a hero, and who will totally botch it up, likely killing some additional innocents but not ever hitting the killer. You cannot have the same assumptions in Israel. Everyone there is trained to respond, and a few are likely to have pistols and will be trained in most efficient ways to take you down. You think twice before making any such plans.
So, just like “well-trained militia” (with muskets, the most advanced gun at the time) does not mean “unruly, untrained, armed populace” here in America, so in those smaller countries it also does not mean the same. Those are small countries with outside threats (like Britain was at the time of Second Amendment, for which it was written). They are not interested in deposing their own government, but in defending their countries from outside occupiers. And they all really are a “well-trained militia” because they all served in the military. Big difference.
Lots of discussion (plus more useful links) of this here: https://www.facebook.com/coturnix/posts/136977656456423
This elicited a thread of 106 comments on Facebook, and it’s still not over:
Over the past few years, I gradually acquired a feeling that Food is one of the most contentious, most poorly researched, and most atrociously reported issues in science, especially among those areas of science that affect us most directly, in our personal and/or political choices and actions. Yet, Food is something that people care about a lot. But it is also a very politicized issue, with wild opinions going rampant and unchecked everywhere, mostly because there is often not solid science to use in counter-arguments. It is all so shady and unclear and at a high-emotion level. Somewhat unwittingly, Christie Wilcox got thrown into the role of our resident “food blogger” on the SciAm blog network, having to study and learn quickly, suffer abuse in the comments, and generally be drawn away from topics she’d rather blog about. I keep looking at existing food bloggers and I like some of them but am not 100% happy with anyone. In the late summer of 2013 or so, I will do some number-crunching to see if I can afford to bring on a food blogger. In the meantime, I will keep looking, and welcome suggestions for existing food bloggers you like (with reasons why). One reason why I have not jumped on hiring any particular person yet, and also why I should perhaps consider a group blog instead of an individual, is that the topic is so complex. It has at least these components:
- plant science/animal science/poultry science/horticulture
- history/agricultural practices/economics/energy
- public health/policy/politics/propaganda
I don’t know if any individual person can cover all of this with equal levels of expertise and authority. Yet all of those aspects are related and intertwined and often play together. So even if I get a group blog, the co-bloggers would have to work together well, consult, coordinate, check each others work, not just share the same platform for their individual efforts. Thoughts?