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I’s gots some explainin’ to do.

May 25, 2010

So, I’ve been sitting on a more or less fully edited – stylistically anyway – version of the big feature story that was the culmination of my three-month self-directed crash course in science journalism, for at least a month.

My project overseer, Paul Benedetti, was a fantastic editor, and I never really thanked him publicly for allowing me to take on this project. The project replaced an entire course, so it was a risk for both him and me, and I’m glad he let me take it.

Now the reason I’ve been sitting on it for a month is because of this, the absolutely fantastic comments that some really amazing people – Ed Yong, Alice Bell, Ferris Jabr, and Jennifer Ouellette – affixed to the rough draft of my story. Their comments are a testament to the open collaboration and insightful input the blogosphere can bring to a discussion.

Unfortunately for me, their comments managed to destabilize large portions of my story. Not disprove per-sé, but destabilize. As Ed kindly pointed out, whether to protect my ego or otherwise, the tone of my story as a synthesis rather than an op-ed was clear, so the attacks are not on me so much as the people whose opinions it represents.

So here’s a first of what I’m sure is going to be a common dilemma in my newfound journalism career: when do you let a story die?

For a crash-course in the field of science communication, I count it as a success. As it stands it is more-or-less accurate, stylistically polished, and I’d like to think readable. It is a contribution to the discussion, no matter how small, but as Jennifer Ouellette pointed out, it doesn’t solve any problems.

I’ve been sitting here for a month, trying to figure out how to solve all of the problems the kind commenters presented, without completely throwing out what I’ve already done. And today I decided I can’t.

It is better for me to let it be what it is.

I’m going to try to continue to learn and grow, and hopefully investigate and report on some of these deeper issues in science journalism and science communication.

I just don’t think it can all be addressed in one story.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2010 7:36 pm

    It seems to me that, in this line of work, we cannot please everyone. And more to the point, we shouldn’t try to. As Benedetti also pointed out in some of our earliest classes, if we write a story with the aim of pleasing everyone, than we have failed. I think he put it more eloquently by saying (and I’m paraphrasing here) that by the end of a story, if someone isn’t pissed off, we haven’t done our job.

    Secondly, I think that your story has done what many expect journalism – and perhaps most importantly, science journalism – to do, and that is to generate a discussion; a debate; a heated argument. Call it what you will. We can’t solve everything and certainly not in one story. All journalists can do is uncover the facts and the truth, and let the discussion and debate evolve in an organized, mature, and intelligent manner.

  2. May 25, 2010 8:55 pm

    Thanks Jackson, I really appreciate it. It’s not so much that I’m trying to please everyone, but rather that I went, “oh s***, they’re right!” after reading the comments.

    I don’t tailor my work to satisfy or appease anyone, but rather I look at comments and the products of the discussion as an opportunity to grow. It’s just that here, with this article, I couldn’t really implement any of the changes I wanted to make – it’s better to start anew.

  3. May 26, 2010 7:58 am

    What James said.

    You can’t please everybody… nor should you aim to. In fact, the Colin Schultz I know seems to enjoy spurring debate :)

    I’d say your “crash course” was probably a better learning experience than any of the electives the rest of us took. I wish I’d done the same thing, in retrospect. As useful as health and medical was…


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