Advanced Journalistic Writing: Science, Technology, Society

ENGL 158/STSC 118

Peter Tarr

TBD (once per week, for approximately 2 hours)

Millions of Americans are science-illiterate; a growing number are "science-deniers." This state of affairs was brought to light as never before in the uneven response to expert advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is much confusion about science and technology as reported in the press. Are GMOs dangerous? Does climate change pose a threat we need to act upon now? Should biologists be permitted to “edit” germline cells? Is data privacy something we should no longer expect? This workshop is for students interested in using popular science writing to broaden public understanding of such questions. The premise is that good sci-tech writing should help the public assess the role of science in society. Each student will produce 4 polished pieces of writing (3 fact-based op-eds of 750 words + a scientist-profile of 1500-2000 words) about scientists and sci-tech subject matter, based on a range of techniques that all journalists must master: researching a topic; identifying potential interviewees; focusing the story; and writing and rewriting story drafts. The object is to show improvement between first and subsequent drafts, with help from others in the workshop, who will provide periodic short critiques. [Note: The profile project will be modified to reflect what is possible under pandemic conditions.] This course is cross-listed in Science, Technology and Society as STSC 118.

 

This course meets both the humanities and public engagement requirements.

Spring 2021