2022 National Science-Health-Environment Reporting Fellowship

ScienceWriters2022: Knoxville Room, Sheraton Memphis Downtown

9 a.m.  |  Session 1: Fact-Checking 101

Brooke Borel, science journalist and author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, will walk you through fact-checking basics—how to do it, why to do it, how to work with editors and fact-checkers, and how to adapt best practices to cases where you are short on time and resources.

This workshop is presented in cooperation with the KSJ Fact-Checking Project of Knight Science Journalism @ MIT.

Brooke Borel is a journalist specializing in science and technology. She's the articles editor at Undark Magazine and has also written for Popular Science, BuzzFeed News, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Scientific American, FiveThirtyEight, Slate, and others. The Alicia Patterson Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have funded her work. She teaches writing at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and speaks on journalism and fact-checking nationally and internationally. Her writing has been anthologized in What Future, and her books are Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World and The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, both from the University of Chicago Press. A second edition of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking is forthcoming. (Slides, 8 MB .pdf)


10:30 a.m.  |  Coffee break


11 a.m.  |  Session 2: Why Accurate, Science-Based Reporting on Environmental Justice Matters: A Memphis Conversation

Welcome to the Bluff City, a cultural capital whose rich history is riddled with racial and environmental injustice. Today—130 years after Ida B. Wells was forced to leave Memphis in the face of death threats and the destruction of her newspaper office—investigative journalism is helping fuel community action and thrusting the majority-Black city into the national spotlight. Memphis sits atop a remarkable water source, the Memphis Sand Aquifer, which stretches across eight states and recently sparked a water fight that landed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Memphians have long battled both threats to groundwater quality and air pollution in South Memphis, where community activists won a fight against a pipeline last year but are now facing a decade of shipments of toxic coal ash from a condemned Tennessee Valley Authority power plant site and urging action on a sterilization plant releasing ethylene oxide into a residential neighborhood.

Environmental threats from industry, government, and utility activity in Memphis were scantily covered by local media until recent years. Today, philanthropy is supporting an infusion of reporting focused on environmental justice. Reporters are mining an incredible trove of undertold stories.

In this session, we’ll get honest critiques of this coverage from community members, who will tell us why journalism matters to their lives and what local and national journalists should do better if their work is to support equity and justice. We’ll zoom in on the Memphis aquifer and the science of groundwater contamination and depletion. This session will take the format of a roundtable conversation moderated by Ros Reid of CASW. One or more of our community guests may join us for lunch to continue the conversation.

  • Freelance journalist Ashli Blow (@ashliblow) is from Memphis. Although she currently lives in Seattle, she returns frequently and does investigative reporting for MLK50, The Tennessee Lookout and other publications. Ashli will join via Zoom. She’s got a major story coming out in the Lookout about chlordane and dieldrin contamination in the Wolf River, which meets the Mississippi at Memphis, by the same pesticide manufacturer called out by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring. (Slides, 4 MB .pdf)
  • Frank Johnson (not yet confirmed) is a long-time South Memphis community activist who grew up next to a Defense Department waste disposal site that is one of Memphis’s Superfund sites.
  • Justin J. Pearson (@justinjpearson) is co-founder of Memphis Community Against Pollution and widely credited with the success of the fight against the Byhalia Pipeline.
  • Brian Waldron is director of the Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering at the University of Memphis and a widely respected expert on the groundwater resources of the Mid-South. He is an advocate of community engagement, author of a number of studies on the Memphis Sands Aquifer, and a frequent source for reporters on water issues.

This session was organized with assistance from Sarah Houston, executive director of the community group Protect Our Aquifer, who will also join us.


12:30 p.m.  |  Lunch break

Susan will lead a lunch outing to South of Beale Restaurant.


2 p.m.  |  Conference check-in and badge pickup opens across the street at the Renasant Convention Center


2:30 p.m.  |  Session 3: Asking Questions About Data

This hands-on integrative workshop will conclude the mini-course in data and statistics reporting that the SHERFs have been taking online.

This workshop is supported by the Kavli Foundation.

  • Regina Nuzzo is an award-winning science writer, statistician, communicator and professor of mathematics at Gallaudet University, as well as a lecturer in primary care and population health in the Department of Medicine at Stanford. She is a graduate of the Science Communication program at the University of California-Santa Cruz and holds a PhD in statistics from Stanford. Her science journalism specialties center around data, probability, statistics, and the research process. Her work has appeared in Nature, The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Reader’s Digest, New Scientist, and Scientific American.


4:30 p.m.  |  Wrap-up


5:45 p.m.  |  First bus leaves for the welcome reception from Main Street in front of the Sheraton