Tag Archives: craft

Cinematic techniques can add pop to stories, says Pulitzer winner at #AHCJ17

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJTake the standard five W’s and H and think more cinematically, Jacqui Banaszynski suggested. “Think stories, think literature, think fiction, think fairy tales.”

All great stories begin with great reporting. But how do you make your copy snap, crackle and pop? Use some of the same techniques found great television and movies, suggests Jacqui Banaszynski, who holds the Knight Chair in Editing at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Kicking off the morning sessions on the first day of Health Journalism 2017, Banaszynski, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her series, “AIDS in the Heartland,” kept a packed room of journalists engrossed during a nearly two-hour give-and-take on the elements of great narrative writing that engages your readers from beginning to end. Continue reading

The challenge of writing about people in poverty

Joe Rojas-Burke

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health, working to help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or @rojasburke.

When online commenters get nasty, it’s tempting to just write them off as trolls. But is it possible that sometimes journalists set the stage with cartoonish, stereotyped portrayals of the subjects in our stories, particularly when writing about people who are poor or homeless or undocumented immigrants? Can well-meaning but uncareful journalism about marginalized people do more harm than good?

These are worthy questions posed in a blog by Lori Kleinsmith, who works as a health promoter for a community health center in Ontario, Canada. Kleinsmith says:

The challenge with writing a story about someone living in poverty is that it is really just a snapshot that is unable to display a deeper context of the experience of poverty firsthand. The pathways into and out of poverty are much more complex than a snapshot and many readers are unable to see beyond the surface and to be empathetic to a person’s circumstances, choosing instead to speculate or criticize. There can also be a pitting of the working poor against those in receipt of publicly funded social assistance programs, an “undeserving poor versus deserving poor” battle. The real systemic issues about how to address poverty get lost in the war of words and degrading comments about one’s choices and lifestyle.

Kleinsmith asserts that journalists need to tell more complete stories “that provide evidence and not just emotion, and that do not further victimize those who are brave enough to speak out.” Continue reading

Forcing ideas through a tiny funnel to translate science

Sally James

About Sally James

Sally James (@jamesian) is a Seattle freelance writer who frequently covers biotechnology and research stories for magazines.

Public speaking, especially in an unforgiving fast format, gave me new insights into my own writing. It was a nail-biting adrenalin-pumping thrill ride. But I recommend it to everyone who writes.

Many of you have watched videos from the very popular organization – TED. Their motto is “ideas worth spreading.” Imagine you had to perform one of those speeches, standing on the red rug.

Here are a few things I learned from speaking in a cousin of TED, on my own red rug: Continue reading

Finding good reads on medical research

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

If guys can have bromance, surely writers are allowed a little prosemance.

Here, then, is a brief list of some of my favorite medical research bloggers:

Hilda Bastian is the editor and curator of PubMed Health. Check out her new blog for Scientific American, Absolutely Maybe, about uncertainty in medical evidence.  She talks about statistics with cartoons at Statistically Funny.

Dr. Kenneth Lin is a family practice physician in Washington D.C., and one of those people who apparently never sleeps. In addition to his practice, he’s the associate editor of American Family Physician, he’s working on his masters degree in public health and writing four blogs. My favorite is Common Sense Family Doctor, where he often talks about the application and interpretation of medical evidence — something that’s too often missing from medical study coverage.

Virginia Hughes is a masterful writer with a deep understanding of science and medicine.  She’s one of those writers who is so good, just reading her is likely to rub off and make you a better writer. Her elegant musings can be found on her blog, Only Human, for National Geographic. And fair warning, the whole Phenomena group, which also includes Brian Switek, Carl Zimmer, and Ed Yong, is pretty wonderful. Don’t blame me if you click over only to realize you’ve been reading blog posts for an hour and ignoring your own deadlines. Not that this has ever happened to me.

Nepotism alert, of sorts. Ivan Oransky, M.D., is an AHCJ board member and he’s well known to most members as the gatekeepers of our solid gold electronic discussion list (membership has its benefits!), but he’s also a darn fine blogger. Through Retraction Watch, he and Adam Marcus have trained a valuable spotlight on cases of scientific fraud that once quietly escaped notice. He also keeps an eye on issues related to journal embargoes at Embargo Watch.

Those are my picks. Now share yours. Post a comment to tell us about bloggers who make your regular reading list and why.