Science and Medical Journalism
of Media and Journalism
JOMC 560.1 (cross listed as HBEH 660 & HPM 550), Fall 2015
MW 9:05 a.m. - 10:20 a.m., Carroll Hall 340
Tom Linden, M.D.
328 Carroll Hall
|Wednesday, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. or whenever office door is open|
|linden at unc dot edu|
Alasdair Wilkins - T.A.
|908-723-1674||M, W, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.,
Graduate Student Lounge
|alasdair at live dot 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 health 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:
How to find news value in scientific research reports.
How to integrate scientific and medical statistics from source materials into news reports.
How to research, report and write science, medical and health news stories for popular media.
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 2014, a primer about science writing from masters
in the field, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about environmental
contamination and human health, and a memoir from a physician
writer. 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. The following books are all available at
the UNC student store and copies of all the books (except A
Field Guide for Science Writers) 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, editor. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014, Mariner, © 2014, 305 pp., ISBN: 978-0-544-00342-2, $14.95.bl
2) 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.
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) Fagin, Dan. Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, Island Press (Reprint Edition), 2015, pp. 576, ISBN: 978-1610915915.
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 9, 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.
A working medical 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.
Each graduate student will be responsible for two 15- to 20-minute presentation on assigned reading. I'll 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, I'll count classroom participation as 25 percent of your final grade. I'll base the classroom participation grade on the quality (not necessarily the quantity) of your discussion. I'll judge quality of your classroom discussion on the following two criteria:
1) Whether it's clear that you've read and thought about the readings.
2) Your ability to integrate ideas gleaned both from readings and from contributions of your classmates.
After one unexcused absence, each absence will result in a drop of one letter grade. This is a graduate-level seminar, and your presence and contribution are essential. You cannot pass the course with more than two unexcused absences.
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.
To sharpen your writing skills, you'll write a series of stories in various journalistic genres. The writing assignments will count for 75 percent of your final grade.
All assignments must be posted on the Sakai discussion site at least two days before they are 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 stylebook. As per the usual practice in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 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).
There will be no midterm or final exam.
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
How To Succeed in This Course
Attend classes consistently.
Complete readings before the appropriate classroom discussions.
Participate actively in class discussions.
Ask the Professor questions either during class or during office hours if you're unclear about any aspect of the course.
Turn in stories on time, both on Sakai and in class.
Check online syllabus frequently
throughout the semester (preferably before each class) as
assignments and topics may change without e-mail notice.
AUG. 19: INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE AND MEDICAL JOURNALISM
* Turn in Student Data Sheet that was emailed to you.
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.
WEEK 2:Aug. 24: A GUIDE TO WRITING NONFICTION -- Guest speaker, Stephanie Brown, Director, Park Library, 9:40-10:10 a.m.
* Learn the basics of writing nonfiction.
Zinsser, William, On Writing Well, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Browse online resources
from the JOMC Park Library.
Aug. 26: A GUIDE TO WRITING NONFICTION (cont.) & ETHICS OF
SCIENCE AND MEDICAL JOURNALISM (Yasmin)
"Aiding Those in Distress," Association of Health Care Journalists, http://www.healthjournalism.org/secondarypage-details.php?id=898.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.
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.
Oransky, Ivan, "Covering Medical Studies; How Not to Get It
Wrong," Powerpoint presentation downloadable from Sakai.
Oransky, Ivan, "How
to avoid 'he said-she said' science journalism," Not
Exactly Rocket Science guest blog, February 18, 2010.
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.
Watch, the website co-founded by Dr. Ivan Oransky.
SEPT. 2: INTERPRETATION OF MEDICAL STATISTICS (cont.)(Mary)
Cohn & Cope, News & Numbers: A Writer's Guide to Statistics, Part II, pp. 70-169.
Kolata, Gina, online at "Forty Years' War -- Advances Elusive in the Drive to Cure Cancer," also in New York Times Reader, pp. 156-162.
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)
Laatikainen, Reijo, "Randomized
trials are no panacea for what ails nutrition research,"
Health News Review, Aug. 26, 2015.
SEPT. 7: Labor Day (no class)
SEPT. 9: NEWS STORIES (Rossie)
Blum et al.,
editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers, Chapters
1, 2, 4, 5, 6.
Cowles, Gregory, "Oliver
Sacks Dies at 82; Neurologist and Author Explored the
Brain's Quirks," New York Times, Aug. 30, 2015.
face unique conflict-of-interest dilemmas," Association
of Health Care Journalists," Aug. 10, 2015.
New York Times Reader, Chapter 1, pp. 7-24.
Assignment #1: News story
due Monday, Sept. 28. Please upload your draft of your news
story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #1 by Saturday,
Sept. 26, at 6 p.m.
SEPT. 14: NEWS STORIES (cont.) (Alex)
New York Times Reader, Chapters 2 & 3.
you must use embargoes, here's how to do it right,"
Epidemiology Biostatistics and Public Health, 2013, Vol. 10,
16: NEWS STORIES (cont.), Skype interview with Benedict Carey,
NYT science reporter, 9:15-10:15 a.m.
Linden, New York Times Reader, Chapter 5, pp. 92-98, Chapter 6, pp. 106-109, Chapter 7, pp. 132-135, 138-142.
Linden, New York Times Reader,"A Conversation with Benedict Carey," pp. 99-101 & 152-154.
SEPT. 21: INVESTIGATIVE
Fagin, Dan. Toms
River: A Story of Science and Salvation, Part 1, pp.
SEPT. 23: INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING, Skype interview with Dan Fagin, author of "Toms River," 9:05-9:55 a.m.
Reading:Fagin, Dan. Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, Parts 2 & 3, pp. 137-362.
Assignment #1 due Monday, Sept. 28.
Please upload the draft of your news story to Sakai ->
Forums -> Assignment #1 by Saturday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m.
SEPT. 28: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #1
Assignment #1 due today.
SEPT. 30: COMMENTARY: COLUMNS & ESSAYS
Barish, David, "God,
Darwin and My College Biology Class," New York Times,
Sept. 27, 2014.
Berger, Marilyn, "Lewis
Thomas, Whose Essays Clarified the Mysteries of Biology,
Is Dead at 80," New York Times, Dec. 4, 1993.
Collins, Gail, "The
Fight for Unplanned Parenthood," New York Times, Sept.
Kakutani, Michiko, "Oliver
Sacks, Casting Light on the Interconnectedness of Life,"
New York Times, Aug. 30, 2015.
Linden, New York Times Reader,
Chapter 12, pp. 247-261 & Chapter 13, pp. 262-268.
OCT. 5: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #2
Assignment #2 (rewrite of
Assignment #1) due today.
OCT. 7: HISTORICAL STORIES
"Science Times" section from
Tuesday, Oct. 6, 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.
Snyder, Timothy, "The
Next Genocide," New York Times, Sept. 12, 2015.
Assignment #3: Essay due Wednesday, Oct. 21. Students
are encouraged to attend the Memorial Hall performances of
"Antigone" at UNC Memorial Hall either Friday, Oct. 9 or
Saturday, Oct. 10. I'll talk about in class how you can use the
play as a jumping-off point for an essay on issues that arise
from the story.
OCT. 12: EXPLANATORY & PERSPECTIVE STORIES (Alasdair)
Blum, Deborah & Mary Knudson, editors. A Field Guide for Science Writers, Ch. 17 (pp. 111-117), Ch. 20 (pp. 132-137).
Best Possible Day," New York Times, Oct. 5, 2014 (a
follow-up to the Katy Butler piece read earlier this
Dying Young Woman's Hope in Cryonics and a Future," New
York Times, Sept. 12, 2015.
York Times Reader, Chapter 7, pp. 120-138, 143-155,
Chapter 8, pp. 156-182.
OCT. 14: ESSAYS -- Guest speaker, Alasdair Wilkins, freelance
writer & second-year master's student, UNC Science and
Medical Journalism Master's Program
OCT. 19: PROFESSIONAL MEMOIR -- Skype interview with author
Reading:Pascoe, Wolf, "Breathing for Two," ebook available at http://www.amazon.com/Breathing-Two-Wolf-Pascoe-ebook/dp/B00BFWYCGK, Kindle edition, 102 pp., $2.99 or Audible edition, $6.95.
OCT. 21: SCIENCE WRITING FOR MAGAZINES (Bhavini)
OCT. 26: CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #3 (essay)
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
North Carolina Health News, "Medicaid Managed Care Outcomes Vary Across Country," July 22, 2014.
NOV. 2: PROFILES - REPORTING FROM THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT -
science and medical journalism Program Guest Lecturer: Judith E.
Tintinalli, MD, MS, Professor, Dept. of Emergency Medicine,
UNC-CH. Please meet at 9:05 a.m. in the Starbucks Cafe
adjacent to the lobby of the UNC Cancer Hospital. Please allow
15 minutes to walk from the UNC Quad to the UNC Cancer
Assignment #4: 900-word profile from the UNC Emergency Department due Wednesday, Nov. 18. Please upload the draft of your story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #4 by Monday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m.
Linden, New York Times Reader,
Chapter 6, pp. 110-119.
Stone, Judy, "Ebola in the U.S. - Politics and Public Health Don't Mix," October 6, 2014, Molecules to Medicine blog, Scientific American blog site.
NOV. 4: REPORTING FOR THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA
* Discuss "Science Times" section from Tuesday, Nov. 3, New York Times.
Linden, Tom, "Medical Reporting for
the Electronic Media," in Barbara Gastel's Health Writer's
Handbook (Second Edition), chapter in Sakai's
"Science Times" section from Tuesday, Nov. 3, New York Times.
NOV. 9: REPORTING FOR THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA -- Skype interview,
Dan Childs, Managing Editor, ABC News Medical Unit
Handout on television script writing tips (in Resources folder of Sakai).
Blum, Deborah & Mary Knudson, editors, A Field Guide for Science Writers, pp. 35-38, 39-44, 73-78.
NOV. 11: RACE AND MEDICINE, guest speaker Dr. Damon Tweedy,
author of Black Man in a
Lyall, Sarah, "Review:
In 'Black Man in a White Coat,' a Doctor Navigates Bruising
Terrain," New York Times, Sept. 13, 2015.
Tweedy, Damon, "A Case of Racism and Reconciliation," Annals of
Internal Medicine, Feb. 7, 2012, Vol. 156, pp. 246-247.
Tweedy, Damon, "The
Case for Black Doctors," The New York Times, May 15, 2015.
with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air," National Public Radio, Sept.,
Assignment #4: 900-word profile from the UNC Emergency
Department due Monday, Nov. 30. Please upload the draft of
your story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #4 by
Saturday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m.
NOV. 16: RADIO REPORTING
Listen to "My Lobotomy," "Mastodons in Manhattan," and "An Ill Newborn, A Loving Family And A Litany Of Wrenching Choices."
NOV. 18: Viewing of documentary "Awakenings"
Assignment #4: Work on assignment #4
due Monday, Nov. 30. Please upload the draft of your UNC
Emergency Department story to Sakai -> Forums ->
Assignment #4 by Saturday, Nov. 28, at 6 p.m.
NOV. 23: SCIENCE WRITING FOR MAGAZINES (cont.) (Joy)
Blum, Deborah (editor), The Best American Science and
Nature Writing 2014, pp. 188-265, 277-305.
Assignment #4: Due Monday, Nov. 30. Please upload your draft of your UNC Emergency Department story to Sakai -> Forums -> Assignment #4 by Saturday, Nov. 28, at 6 p.m.
NOV. 25: No Class (Happy Thanksgiving)
Nov. 30: IN-CLASS CRITIQUE OF ASSIGNMENT #4
Assignment #4 due today.
Dec. 2: CASE STUDY OF HIV TRANSMISSION FROM DENTIST TO PATIENTS - guest speaker, Gene Matthews, former chief counsel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Gostin, Larry, The AIDS Pandemic: Complacency, Injustice
and Unfulfilled Expectations, 2004, excerpt in Sakai ->
MMWR, "Possible Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus to a Patient during an Invasive Dental Procedure," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 27, 1990. -- note from Mr. Matthews: Read MMWR article for "overview purposes." Don't get lost in the details, "but try to imagine what must have been going on inside CDC in 1990 run up to that publication day."
for Preventing Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus
and Hepatitis B Virus to Patients During Exposure-Prone
Invasive Procedures," Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, July 12, 1991. -- note from Mr. Matthews: "Again,
don't get lost in all the factoids, but try to imagine the
complex leadership challenges and conflicts involved in a
government agency publishing and implementing those guidelines."
ABC News, "Tulsa
Dentist Spread Hepatitis C, Health Officials Say," Sept.
Samples, Eve, "Mysterious
ad triggers memories of dentist with AIDS," TCPalm.com,
Sept. 16, 2012. -- note from Mr. Matthews: "Pay particular
attention to the statements by George Bergalis, the father of
The Honor CodeI 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.
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:
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 Nov. 28, 2015