Science and Medical Journalism

School of Media and Journalism

MEJO 560, (cross listed as HBEH 660 & HPM 550), Fall 2016

MW 2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m., Halls of Fame Room (Carroll Hall)

http://mj.unc.edu/medicaljournalism

Tom Linden, M.D.

Office Hours:

328 Carroll Hall

Wednesday, 1:15 - 2:15 p.m. or whenever office door is open
919-962-4078  
linden at unc dot edu  


Course Description & Goals

The purpose of this course is to teach an appreciation of science and medical journalism and provide you with skills to report on science, medical, and environmental news for a variety of media, principally print or text, but also video and audio.

As a participant in this course, you'll learn the following:

Reading

Readings for the course include a text about medical statistics, a classic book on writing well, a compendium of great writing about health and medicine from the New York Times, an anthology of the best science and nature writing published in 2015, a primer about science writing from masters in the field, a book about we learn from the New York Times neuroscience and psychology reporter, and a memoir about race and medicine. Please complete the reading assignments before the appropriate classroom discussions. In addition to the list below, I'll supply additional source materials and articles from various publications. Most of the following books are available at the UNC student store and copies of all the books will be on reserve in the Park Library (second floor) in the School of Media & Journalism. Please note that the books on reserve in the Park Library may be earlier editions that can be substituted for current editions. Students should also consult the AP Stylebook for proper style and usage for all written assignments.

1) Blum, Deborah, Mary Knudson & Robin Marantz Henig, editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers (Second Edition), Oxford University Press (paperback), © 2005, $19.95, ISBN: 0-19-5174992.

2) Carey, Benedict, "How We Learn," Random House (paperback edition), © 2014, 254 pp., $16.00, ISBN: 978-0-8129-8429-3.

3) Cohn, Victor and Lewis Cope with Deborah Cohn Runkle. News & Numbers: A Writer's Guide to Statistics, Wiley-Blackwell (paperback), Third Edition, © 2012, 181 pp., ISBN: 978-1-4051-6096-4.

4) Linden, Tom & the Writers of The New York Times. The New York Times Reader: Health & Medicine, © 2011, $24.95, 292 pp., ISBN: 978-1604264821.

5) Skloot, Rebecca, editor. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015, Mariner, © 2015, 318 pp., ISBN: 978-0-544-28674-0, $14.95.

6) Tweedy, Damon, Black Man in a White Coat, Picador, $14.19, © 2015, 304 pp., 978-1250105042.

7) Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (30th Anniversary Edition), Collins, © 2006, 336 pp., ISBN: 978-0-06-089154-1.

Also, starting with the class for Wednesday, September 21, students should begin reading the print version of the Tuesday Science Times section of the New York Times. On the assigned dates, please bring the Science Times section to class. Consult the course schedule below for the exact dates for which the section should be read. Please note that the online version of the New York Times is not an acceptable substitute since the online and print versions do not necessarily have the same content. The New York Times is available in the UNC Student Store and is also available at a reduced rate by subscription. To subscribe, you can call 1-800-NYTIMES and ask for college subscriptions. Receiving the print edition by subscription also gives you unlimited online access.

Participation

A working science journalist typically talks and discusses relevant issues with colleagues and others before preparing his or her report.  This class will be no different. I'll expect you to share your thoughts with your peers and with me. Classroom discussion will help clarify your ideas and sharpen your focus. You'll also be posting all written assignments on Sakai where your classmates will critique your work before you submit it to Dr. Linden for a grade.

Grading

    Each student will be responsible for two 15- to 20-minute presentations on assigned reading. Dr. Linden will assign the presentations at the beginning of the second class meeting. As critical thinking and discussion with peers are integral to the work of journalists, classroom participation and your two presentations will count for 20 percent of your final grade. Your classroom participation grade will be based on the quality (not necessarily the quantity) of your discussion and will be based on the following criteria:

1) Whether it's clear that you've read and thought about the readings.

2) Your ability to integrate ideas gleaned from the readings into the larger context of science and medical reporting.

    To sharpen your writing skills, you'll write two original stories and revisions of each of those two stories. The four writing assignments will count for 80 percent of your final grade. Each story's grade will be determined as follows (with 100 points possible for each assignment):

1) A maximum of 40 possible points for reporting. Key considerations in grading reporting include the following:

    a) Did you interview a variety of sources, each of whom was knowledgeable about the focus of your story and/or able to present a unique scientific or human interest perspective?
    b) Did you consult primary sources (like journal articles or government publications, e.g.)?
    c) Did you address relevant criteria for solid reporting as noted by the media critique website, Health News Review?

2) A maximum of 40 possible points for writing. Consideration will be given to the following:

    a) Did you write clearly?
    b) Was your writing tight?
    c) Did you follow the writing guidelines enumerated by William Zinsser in his book, "On Writing Well."? If not, can you justify why?
    d) Does your story flow well?   
    e) Did you stick to your six-word message (as discussed in class)?
    f) Did you follow rules in the AP Stylebook?

3) A maximum of 20 possible points will be given for the following:

    a) Is this story publishable with only minor edits?

Grading Scale (for undergraduates)

98 - 100 A+
94 - 97 A
91 - 93 A-
88 - 90 B+
84 - 87 B
81 - 83 B-
78 - 80 C+
74 - 77 C
71 - 73 C-
68 - 70 D+
64 - 67 D
61 - 63 D-
60 and below F

Grading Scale (for graduate students)

93 - 100 Honors
74 - 92 Pass
61 - 73 Low Pass
60 and below F

After one unexcused absence, each absence will result in a drop of one letter grade in the course. This is a upper division/graduate-level seminar, and your presence and contribution are essential. You cannot pass the course with more than two unexcused absences.

Assignments

To succeed in science and medical journalism, you must write well. Good writing requires an understanding of the material and the ability to communicate ideas simply and clearly.

All assignments must be posted on the Sakai discussion site at least two days before they're due in class.  Late assignments will not be accepted without prior permission. Even with prior permission, submission of late assignments will result in a 10-point deduction per day. Not turning in an assignment within two days of the due date will result in a zero grade.  Misspelling of proper names will result in a 10-point deduction per misspelling.  Misspelling of other words will result in a two-point deduction for each word misspelled. We'll follow the print style guidelines of the AP Stylebook. If you intend to pursue journalism as a career, I strongly encourage you to purchase a copy of the AP Stylebook. As per the usual practice in the School of Media & Journalism, a major factual error will result in a failing grade for that particular assignment. Fabricating sources or quotations or engaging in plagiarism will constitute a violation of the Honor Code (for more information about the UNC Honor Code, go to http://instrument.unc.edu).

For the physician profile assignment (assignment #1), you must complete the UNC Medical Center's shadowing requirements as outlined below at least 24 hours BEFORE you shadow your physician.

http://www.uncmedicalcenter.org/uncmc/support/volunteer-services/shadowing/

Please review the above site carefully after your first class as some of the requirements and forms may take up to a week to complete. Please consult Dr. Linden if you have questions.

Exams

There will be no midterm or final exam.

How To Succeed in This Course

Course Schedule

WEEK 1:

AUG. 24: INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE AND MEDICAL JOURNALISM

* Turn in Student Data Sheet that was emailed to you.

Reading for this class session:

Linden, Thomas, "Learning To Be a Medical Journalist," Nieman Reports, Vol. 57, No. 2, Summer 2003, pp.66-67.

Linden, Tom, "The New York Times Reader: Health & Medicine," foreword, preface and introduction.

Silverman, Ed, "Senators press Mylan Labs over 'outrageous' EpiPen pricing," STAT, August 22, 2016.

WEEK 2:

Aug. 29: A GUIDE TO WRITING NONFICTION (Lily)

* Learn the basics of writing nonfiction.

Reading:

Zinsser, William, On Writing Well, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Review UNC Medical Center's shadowing requirements as outlined earlier in the syllabus.

Aug. 31: A GUIDE TO WRITING NONFICTION (cont.) & ETHICS OF SCIENCE AND MEDICAL JOURNALISM (Josh)

Reading:

"Aiding Those in Distress," Association of Health Care Journalists, http://www.healthjournalism.org/secondarypage-details.php?id=898.

Holtz, Andrew, "Update: Conflict of interest/funding disclosure missing from half of news releases we've reviewed -- a case study on why that's important," Health News Review, August 18, 2016.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "A Reporter's Guide to Medical Privacy Law,"  http://www.rcfp.org/reporters-guide-medical-privacy-law.

Scanlan, Chip, "The First Peril: Fabrication," Poynteronline, (Adapted from Reporting and Writing: Basics for the 21st Century, Oxford University Press, 2000). Updated March 2, 2011.

SPJ Code of Ethics: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp?

Statement of Principles of the Association of Health Care Journalists: http://healthjournalism.org/secondarypage-details.php?id=56

"Understanding HIPAA: A Brief Overview," Association of Health Care Journalists, http://healthjournalism.org/resources-tips-details.php?id=12#.Vcomq0W2gso

Zietman, Anthony L., "Falsification, Fabrication, and Plagiarism: The Unholy Trinity of Scientific Writing," International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Vol. 87, No. 2, 1 October 2013, pp. 225-227.

Zinsser, William, On Writing Well, Chapters 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

WEEK 3:

SEPT. 5: Labor Day (no class)

SEPT. 7: INTERPRETATION OF MEDICAL STATISTICS (Ginger)

Reading:

Carey, Benedict, "Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says," New York Times, Aug. 27, 2015.

Cohn & Cope, News & Numbers: A Writer's Guide to Statistics, Part I, Learning the Basics, pp. 1-68.

Leaf, Clifton, "Do Clinical Trials Work?" New York Times, July 13, 2013.

Browse the web sites of the World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) and the National Institutes of Health's clinicaltrials.gov.


WEEK 4:

SEPT. 12: INTERPRETATION OF MEDICAL STATISTICS (cont.) (Lauren)

Reading:

Cohn & Cope, News & Numbers: A Writer's Guide to Statistics, Part II, pp. 70-169.

de Lorgeril, Michel et al., "Cholesterol Lowering, Cardiovascular Diseases and the Rosuvastatin-JUPITER Controversy," Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(12):1032-1036 (June 28, 2010). (posted in Sakai -> Resources)

Kolata, Gina, online at "Forty Years' War -- Advances Elusive in the Drive to Cure Cancer," also in New York Times Reader, pp. 156-162.

Laatikainen, Reijo, "Randomized trials are no panacea for what ails nutrition research," Health News Review, Aug. 26, 2015.

Ridker, Paul et al., "Rosuvastatin to Prevent Vascular Events in Men and Women with Elevated C-Reactive Protein," N Engl J Med 2008;359:2195-2≠207 (Nov. 20, 2008). (posted in Sakai -> Resources)

SEPT. 14: REPORTING FROM THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT - Judith E. Tintinalli, MD, MS, Professor, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, UNC-CH, and science and medical journalism Program Adjunct Professor

Please meet at 2:30 p.m. in the conference room above the Starbucks Cafe, located adjacent to the lobby of the UNC Cancer Hospital. Please allow 15 minutes to walk from the UNC Quad to the UNC Cancer Hospital.

Reading:

Rosenberg, Naomi, "How to Tell a Mother Her Child Is Dead," New York Times, Sept. 3, 2016.

Assignment #1: 900-word profile from the UNC Emergency Department due Wednesday, Oct 5. Please upload the draft of your story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #1 by Monday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m.

WEEK 5:

SEPT. 19: NEWS STORIES (Josh)

Reading:

Blum et al., editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 6.

"Covering the Zika virus and local outbreaks: Journalism guides and tips," Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, updated Aug. 24, 2016.

Haelle, Tara, "Freelancers face unique conflict-of-interest dilemmas," Association of Health Care Journalists," Aug. 10, 2015.

Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 1, pp. 7-24.

Oransky, Ivan, "If you must use embargoes, here's how to do it right," download pdf file from Epidemiology Biostatistics and Public Health, 2013, Vol. 10, No. 3.

SEPT. 21: NEWS STORIES (cont.) (Lily)

Reading:

"Science Times" section from Tuesday, Sept. 20, New York Times

Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapters 2 & 3.

Lipton, Eric and Rachel Abrams, "EpiPen Maker's Tactics Could Quell Protests Over Prices," New York Times, Sept. 16, 2016.


WEEK 6:

SEPT. 26: NO CLASS

Reading:

Linden, New York Times Reader,"A Conversation with Benedict Carey," pp. 99-101 & 152-154.

SEPT. 28: PROFILES & EXPLANATORY STORIES (Jessica)

Reading:

Butler, Katy,"What Broke My Father's Heart," New York Times, June 18, 2010.

Linden, New York Times Reader,
Chapter 5, pp. 92-98, Chapter 6, pp. 105-110, Chapter 7, pp. 132-136, 138-143.

Assignment

Please upload the draft version of your profile/issues story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #1 DRAFT by Monday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. Please start to critique your classmates' stories on Sakai as soon as they appear on the site.


WEEK 7:

OCT. 3: PROFILES & EXPLANATORY STORIES, Skype interview with author and New York Times reporter Benedict Carey

Reading:

Carey, Benedict, How We Learn, pp. 3-171.

Assignment

Please upload the final version of your news story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #1 FINAL by Monday, Oct. 5, at 2:30 p.m.


OCT. 5: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #1

Assignment #1 due today.

WEEK 8:

OCT. 10: COMMENTARY: COLUMNS, ESSAYS AND BLOG POSTING, Skype interview with Dr. Ivan Oransky, vice president and global editorial director, MedPage Today, and co-founder of Retraction Watch

Reading:

Barish, David, "God, Darwin and My College Biology Class," New York Times, Sept. 27, 2014.

Collins, Gail, "The Fight for Unplanned Parenthood," New York Times, Sept. 18, 2015.

Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 12, pp. 247-261 & Chapter 13, pp. 262-268.

Oransky, Ivan, "Covering Medical Studies; How Not to Get It Wrong," PowerPoint presentation downloadable from Sakai.

Oransky, Ivan, "How Publish or Perish Promotes Inaccuracy in Science--and Journalism," AMA Journal of Ethics, December 2015, Vol. 17, Number 12: 1172-1175.

Browse Retraction Watch, the website co-founded by Dr. Ivan Oransky.
 

Assignment:

Rewrite of assignment #1 due Monday, Oct. 17. Please upload the rewrite of your news story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #2 DRAFT by Saturday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m.

OCT. 12: COMMENTARY: ESSAYS (cont.) (Mikaela)

Reading:

Berger, Marilyn, "Lewis Thomas, Whose Essays Clarified the Mysteries of Biology, Is Dead at 80," New York Times, Dec. 4, 1993.

Kakutani, Michiko, "Oliver Sacks, Casting Light on the Interconnectedness of Life," New York Times, Aug. 30, 2015.

Sacks, Oliver, "My Periodic Table," New York Times, July 24, 2015.

Thomas, Lewis, The Medusa and the Snail, chapters entitled "The Medusa and the Snail," "The Wonderful Mistake," "Ponds," "To Err Is Human" and "On Cloning A Human Being" (all chapters found in electronic link in Resources folder in Sakai).

Assignment:

Rewrite of assignment #1 due Monday, Oct. 17. Please upload the draft rewrite of your news story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #2 DRAFT by Saturday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m., and also upload the final version of your rewritten news story to
Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #2 FINAL by 2:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17.

WEEK 9:

OCT. 17: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #2

Assignment #2 (rewrite of Assignment #1) due today.

OCT. 19: HISTORICAL STORIES (Rachel)

Reading:

"Science Times" section from Tuesday, Oct. 18, New York Times.

Altman, Larry, "For 3 Nobel Winners, a Molecular Mystery Solved," New York Times, Oct. 7, 2013.

Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 9, pp. 183-197.

McNeil Jr., Donald G., "In Reaction to Zika Outbreak, Echoes of Polio," New York Times, Aug. 29, 2016.

Snyder, Timothy, "The Next Genocide," New York Times, Sept. 12, 2015.


WEEK 10:

OCT. 24: PERSPECTIVE STORIES (Anna)

Reading:

Blum, Deborah & Mary Knudson, editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers, Ch. 17 (pp. 111-117), Ch. 20 (pp. 132-137).

Gawande, Atul, "The Best Possible Day," New York Times, Oct. 5, 2014 (a follow-up to the Katy Butler piece read earlier this semester).

Harmon, Amy, "A Dying Young Woman's Hope in Cryonics and a Future," New York Times, Sept. 12, 2015.

Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 8, pp. 156-182.

OCT. 26: ESSAYS (cont.) -- Guest speaker, Stephanie Brown, Director, Park Library, 2:30-3:00 p.m.

Reading:

Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 13, pp. 262-268.

Sacks, Oliver, "Sabbath," The New York Times, August 14, 2015.

Wilkins, Alasdair, "I lost 100 pounds in a year. My 'weight loss secret' is really dumb." Vox, July 7, 2015.

Browse online resources from the MEJO Park Library.

Assignment #3: Essay due Wednesday, Nov. 9. Please upload the draft of your essay to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #3 DRAFT by 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7.

WEEK 11:

OCT. 31: NO CLASS

Assignment #3: Essay due Wednesday, Nov. 9. Please upload the draft of your essay to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #3 by 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7.

NOV. 2: COVERING HEALTH NEWS -- REPORTING ON HEALTH NEWS, guest speaker: Rose Hoban, publisher of North Carolina Health News

Reading:

Please browse the North Carolina Health News web site.

North Carolina Health News, "DENR Request Exemptions for Smaller-Scale Air Polluters," Sept. 25, 2015.

North Carolina Health News, "Budget writers rely on questionable method for Medicaid budgeting," August 18, 2014.

North Carolina Health News, "Complicated Hospital Accounting Adds to Medicaid Uncertainty," July 14, 2014.

North Carolina Health News, "Medicaid Managed Care Outcomes Vary Across Country," July 22, 2014.

Assignment #3: Essay due Wednesday, Nov. 9. Please upload the draft of your essay to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #3 DRAFT by 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7.

WEEK 12:

NOV. 7: SCIENCE WRITING FOR MAGAZINES (Mikaela)

Reading:

Skloot, Rebecca (editor), The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015, pp. 1-99.

Assignment #3: Please upload the draft of your essay to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #3 DRAFT by 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7. Later, please upload the final version of your essay to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #3 FINAL by 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9.

NOV. 9: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #3

Assignment #3 due today.

WEEK 13:

NOV. 14: REPORTING FOR THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA 

Reading:

Linden, Tom, "Medical Reporting for the Electronic Media," in Barbara Gastel's Health Writer's Handbook (Second Edition), chapter in Sakai's "Resources" folder.

NOV. 16: REPORTING FOR THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA, Skype interview, Dan Childs, Managing Editor, ABC News Medical Unit

Viewing:

"This Week": Opting Out on Vaccines?," ABC News, April 6, 2014.
"Powerful Norovirus Spreads Across America," ABC News, Jan. 25, 2013.
"What is the Best Way to Sneeze?" ABC News, Jan. 28, 2014.

Assignment #4: Rewrite of Assignment #3 due Wednesday, Nov. 30.  Please upload the draft of your essay to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #4 DRAFT by 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 28. Later, Please upload the final version of your essay to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #4 FINAL by 2:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 30.

WEEK 14:

NOV. 21: RACE AND MEDICINE, guest speaker Dr. Damon Tweedy, author of Black Man in a White Coat

Reading:

Tweedy, Damon, Black Man in a White Coat, pp. 1-183.

Listen:

Interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air," National Public Radio, Sept., 9, 2015.

NOV. 23 - No Class (Happy Thanksgiving)

WEEK 14:  

NOV. 28: RADIO REPORTING, guest lecturer, Adam Hochberg, NPR correspondent

Listen to "My Lobotomy," "Mastodons in Manhattan," and "An Ill Newborn, A Loving Family And A Litany Of Wrenching Choices."

Assignment #4: Rewrite of Assignment #3 due Wednesday, Nov. 30.  Please upload the draft of your story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #4 DRAFT by Monday, Nov. 28, at 6 p.m.

NOV. 30: SCIENCE WRITING FOR MAGAZINES (cont.)

Assignment #4 due today.

Reading:

"Science Times" section from Tuesday, Nov. 29, New York Times.

Skloot, Rebecca (editor), The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015, pp. 100-206.


WEEK 15: 

DEC. 5: SCIENCE WRITING FOR MAGAZINES (cont.) (Lauren)

Reading:

Skloot, Rebecca (editor), The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015, pp. 206-305.

DEC. 7: CLASS WRAP-UP

------------------------------------

The Honor Code

I expect that each student will conduct himself or herself within the guidelines of the University honor system (http://honor.unc.edu). All academic work should be done with the high levels of honesty and integrity that this University demands. You are expected to produce your own work in this class. If you have any questions about your responsibility or your instructorís responsibility as a faculty member under the Honor Code, please see the course instructor or Senior Associate Dean Charlie Tuggle, or you may speak with a representative of the Student Attorney Office or the Office of the Dean of Students.

Seeking Help

If you need individual assistance, itís your responsibility to meet with the instructor. If you are serious about wanting to improve your performance in the course, the time to seek help is as soon as you are aware of the problem Ė whether the problem is difficulty with course material, a disability, or an illness.

Diversity

The Universityís policy on Prohibiting Harassment and Discrimination is outlined in the 2015-2016 Undergraduate Bulletin http://www.unc.edu/ugradbulletin/. UNC is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our community and does not discriminate in offering access to its educational programs and activities on the basis of age, gender, race, color, national origin, religion, creed, disability, veteranís status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Professional Values and Competencies

Among the many skills students will learn in this course, it's expected they will be able to fulfill the following values and competencies as enumerated by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication:

Special Accommodations

If you require special accommodations to attend or participate in this course, please let the instructor know as soon as possible. If you need information about disabilities visit the Accessibility Services website at https://accessibility.unc.edu/

--syllabus revised Sept. 27, 2016