“Given how quick we are to cry ‘clickbait!’ these days, the legacies must assure their audience that they are not sacrificing standards when they try to play the digital game and—god forbid—get some social-media traffic. But it’s been surprisingly difficult to get the message across that high-brow, deeply reported journalism can, in fact, coexist with audience-pleasing frivolity.”

Ann Friedman, in Why Serious Journalism Can Coexist With Audience-Pleasing Content

140512_PLUS_HelmuthKois.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlarge (2)

The Editor’s Creed

Two Slate editors debate their very different editing philosophies.


Relatively Indolent But Relentless: A Cancer Treatment Journal (public library) — a remarkable visual chronicle by New York-based artist, writer, and curator Matt Freedman, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cystic carcinoma in the fall of 2012, an aggressive cancer that had already spread from his tongue to his throat and lungs by the time it was detected. Before beginning the grueling treatment, Freedman, who teaches in the Visual Studies program at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, received a blank sketchbook as a gift from his colleagues and students. Over the course of his reality-rupturing experience, he proceeded to fill it up with simple sketches that emanate incredible honesty and humor — perhaps our two greatest weapons in the face of helplessness.

– Maria Popova at Brain Pickings

So  as science writers, we should go ahead and treat our scientists as characters and their discoveries as plots; and find pretty analogies; and control rhythms; and look for the central conflicts; and write with our own peculiar voices…. We have no option but to find the beauty in the facts, in reality, in our mutual world.  And write about that.”

— Ann Finkbeiner, in Beauty and Truth in Writing About Science


I think this might have been a perfect book.

“A library is many things. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books… Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had.”

— E. B. White, quoted in The Public Library

“Find the general things that appeal to other people, find the universals to what’s important about your science that can communicate and be understood by people in other fields and other walks of life, and find the universals in your passion. You have a passion for what you do — try to explain why you feel that passion. And if you’re able to link those universals of discovery and passion with the facts of science, you’ve done very well.”

— Neil Shubin on connecting with different audiences through scientific writing


Newspaper blackout poems in “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon

“If you believe in the lone genius myth, creativity is an antisocial act, performed by only a few great figures — mostly dead men with names like Mozart, Einstein, or Picasso. The rest of us are left to stand around and gawk in awe at their achievements.”

— Austin Kleon

“We often view the communication of science, be it in our own scholarly journals or in mass media, as somehow distinct and meaningfully different from other communication styles…. One can accurately convey science with stories and an engaging style that not only brings the reader along in the discovery process, but also preserves the truth and validity of the underlying discovery.”

–Todd A. Carpenter (plus bonus Alan Alda), in On Communicating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Science

Three cheers for scientific writing by humans for humans!

“The cold remains a mystery, more prone to fell men than women, more lethal to the thin and well muscled than to those with avoirdupois, and least forgiving to the arrogant and the unaware.”

Peter Stark

The physiology involved in freezing to death. This is an essay I wish I’d written.