MSU journalism students can learn to report on biotech at Arizona workshop – for free

By David Poulson

Knight Center graduate and undergraduate students have a great shot at a scholarship to learn to report on biotechnology at a workshop at Arizona State University Oct. 27-28.

Student and professional journalists can attend Biotech University at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

And three student journalists at Michigan schools can have their workshop registration, travel and meals provided by the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee and the United Soybean Board.

What’s more, after the workshop the students can submit a story about biotechnology to an independent panel of experienced journalists. The grand-prize winner gets a $2,500 scholarship.

A runner-up graduate student and undergraduate student will each receive a $1,500 scholarship.

Participants will:

  • Tackle the controversial issue of genetic modification
  • Learn from a veteran reporter how to report on biotechnology and GMOs
  • Participate in a DNA extraction experiment
  • Tour Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute
  • Visit a farm that uses biotechnology

Learn more and see the agenda here. Related information: and

Students interested in the travel/registration/meal support to attend the workshop should write a letter stating their interest and submit a resume to the attention of Elaine Bristol, Michigan Ag Council Program Coordinator, P.O. Box 30960 Lansing, MI. 48909-8460.  Emailing this information to is also acceptable.

The deadline is Sept. 9.

Paid journalism jobs for MSU students

The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism is looking for MSU students to report for the center’s award-winning Great Lakes Echo and for The Food Fix.

These are paid positions for reporting across a variety of platforms. Reporters work up to 20 hours a week on flexible shifts. They are based at 381 Communication Arts and Sciences.

Required: A commitment to accuracy, reliability, fairness and desire to learn.

Helpful but not required: previously published work and an interest in the environment.


  • One-page resume
  • Writing samples or links to them
  • A 100-word essay explaining why you’re right for the job
  • Three references with contact information

Send to: Barb Miller, Put “KC job application” in the subject line.

Questions? Contact Knight Center Senior Associate Director David Poulson, 517 432 5417,

Scientists, window-washers and gender

By David Poulson
I was a bit surprised this week to get a press release from the University of Michigan titled, “Female scientists to sample plastics in all five Great Lakes.”
Here’s the lede:
“ANN ARBOR—Female scientists from the U.S. and Canada will set sail Aug. 20 on all five Great Lakes and connecting waterways to sample plastic debris pollution and to raise public awareness about the issue.”
 Microplastics pollution in the Great Lakes is an important story. It’s one that we’ve often covered on the Knight Center’s environmental news service.
And this certainly seems like a story:
“Teams of researchers will collect plastic debris on the five Great Lakes, as well Lake St. Clair-Detroit River and the Saint Lawrence River. Data collected will contribute to growing open-source databases documenting plastic and toxic pollution and their impacts on biodiversity and waterway health, according to event organizers.”
But isn’t it the substance of the endeavor that’s newsworthy – rather than the gender of those implementing it?

Continue reading

Is there poetry in climate change?

David Poulson

David Poulson

Some of what I do at MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism involves helping researchers better communicate their work directly to the public and to decision makers.

Much of that consists of pointing out altruistic and selfish reasons to do so. And then I  follow up with tips and techniques and a general admonition to practice, practice, practice.

Many researchers share the same problems – a tendency toward jargon, burying the lede, too many words and a lack of focus. Continue reading