Science Writing Sinking: It’s Not Just Me

Aha! Or rather, uh-oh. I’ve been writing about how hard it is being unable to write, but I just learned it’s not that I can’t write. The problem is that I can’t find anyone who’s listening. The problem is the writing economy. Especially the science-writing economy. I’m not alone in isolation, but that’s no consolation.

At The Open Notebook: The story behind the best science stories, freelance science writer Kendall Powell writes

[T]he collapse of print advertising, declining magazine subscriptions, the enormous availability of free content online … has writers of all kinds talking and writing about their job security fears and inability to make a living wage in journalism.

All those newspapers circling the drain, downsizing staff, thinning editions, means there are few science sections in print now, and they don’t need any more writers. Magazines hung on to their advertisers and subscribers longer than newspapers, but now magazines, too, are falling off the cliff. Science magazines are winking out. Some have simplified their offerings to avoid alienating, or challenging, readers.

At this point, I’d be thrilled to write for any venue, but I can’t find an editor to give me the time of day. One thing I love about publishing a story is the give-and-take with the editor. Gone.

The same forces that have suppressed freelance rates have also slashed the size of the editorial staff at most publications, while also increasing the amount of time they need to spend on each story.
[L]ack of time on writers’ and editors’ parts means relationship-building and mentoring fall off, too.

Robin Marantz Henig, president of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), comments

At the dawn of the internet back in the 1980s, we writers tried to make it clear that the web needed writers if it was to offer anything of value. We lost.

Readers, both of you, what do you like about reading? The sense of a conversation? Original perspectives that twist your mind? Say goodbye to all that.