This tweet by Julie Gould this morning brought the question to my mind - how do we as science bloggers decide what to write about?
This question isn't a new one for me - in fact, it's a question I'm interested in exploring for my PhD dissertation work. So I'm asking for other science bloggers to give their input.
If you are interested in being interviewed by me about this question and your science blogging practices in general, give me your contact information here!
The first problem with asking this question, though, is that science bloggers are NOT a homogeneous group. There are science journalists blogging on the side. There are scientists blogging about their research. There are scientists blogging for science outreach purposes. There are science students blogging out of passion for science, for class credit, etc. There are science communication scholars (like me) blogging about their musings in #scicomm. There are science bloggers doing capital "J" journalism, sometimes in efforts to build their portfolios as freelancers. There are science PIOs who blog for all kinds of different reasons.
But setting aside this complication for now, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the following questions:
1. How do you as a science blogger decide what to write about? Do you write about new research studies/papers that fall into your own research area? Do you write about interesting questions that catch your eye as you have conversations on social media? Do you blog mainly things that pique your interest, regardless of whether they are "newsworthy"? Do you blog to answer reader questions? To dispel myths?
Some of these are big picture questions, but more specifically, what criteria do you find yourself using when deciding whether to write on a potential story idea, or pass on it?
2. What about traditional news factors - or the attributes journalists traditionally use to determine if a story is newsworthy? Do you think you take these into account (consciously or unconsciously?) Impact? Timeliness? Prominence (featuring well-know individuals or institutions are newsworthy)? Proximity? The "bizarre"? Conflict? Currency (a topic that is current or already in the news media)? Human interest (stories that have more of an entertainment factor)?
3. If you DO think about traditional news factors - why? Do you include "news pegs" in your stories to help them spread via your readers on social media? (A news peg is 'an aspect or angle of a story that makes it newsworthy'). Or do you include news pegs in hopes that more traditional media outlets will pick up or share your story?
4. Are there "non traditional" news factors that you consider when deciding what to write about? Maybe the scientific impact of a given piece of science? Its relevance to current "hot areas" of science?
5. What about humor? Awe factor? "Cool" science?
6. What other criteria do you use when deciding if a given story idea or scientific discovery is worth blogging about? Another way to ask this question - what would you probably NOT blog about? What story ideas have you passed on, because you didn't think there would be much reader interest?
7. Do you blog for a community / network that encourages certain topics over others?
8. So a story idea has caught your eye, and you've decided to blog about it. Do you inject any news pegs or news values INTO the story as you write it?
9. Have you ever noticed your blogging content being picked up by a bigger (or traditional) news outlet? Have you ever been contacted as a news source because of your science blogging?
Considering the big picture, do you think it's important for science bloggers to consider traditional news factors and news pegs in the first place? Or should we be focusing on making science blogging more "timeless"?
And if you can think of any questions I'm NOT asking above, please answer them too!
Tweet to me @FromTheLabBench, or comment below!