Virtually every week here at the Science Media Centre, we get calls from young science or journalism students who are keen to get into science writing. The questions are usually of the same vein – where do I go to get science stories published?
We usually list the usual outlets where freelancers can pitch story ideas, but the reality is that getting through the door as a new writer is generally quite tough, especially in the current media environment where freelance budgets have been cut back.
However, a new model for science writing is in its fledgling phase and represented by the New Science Journalism Project being put together by Alison Fay Binney in conjunction with the Science Communication Program at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia (UNSW).
NSJ is essentially an online news service inviting contributions from students interested in writing about science. Contributions so far span all disciplines of science, from energy to HIV research. As Binny explains, the website aims to fill the gap left by declining coverage of science in areas of the mainstream media:
“The project addresses: the lack of opportunities for students interested in internet media to strategically direct their career into professional science communication, declining employment in science journalism (including significant layoffs by global network, CNN), the looming crises associated with global climate change and a surge of interest in various remedies such as new energy markets.”
The site design is slick and one the contributions start flowing, the NSJ could well become a respected outlet for science writing. But will contributing freelancers get paid for their writing efforts? Apparently they will, as part of a revenue share model that sees advertising revenue generated through the website split between contributing editors.
As the NSJ explains: “The NSJARexTM scheme is designed to reward the contributing student journalists by splitting advertising revenue equally in any calendar month. The original idea is that students who contribute to the online magazine in any calendar month get a percent share of advertising revenue raised in that same month.”
The caveat is that the revenue share scheme won’t start operating until there is “an established flow of news and advertising revenue”. As such, contributions at the moment will go unpaid. Still, its a great outlet for students looking to turn their hand to writing news stories and features, combining some expertise of a subject with a desire to get into science communication.