Speaking to… James Randerson

“If you’re going to set up a blog, there is a time commitment to that, to make a go of it you need to give it some energy, thought and time… So you need to think through before you do it, what are you trying to achieve through it?”

James Randerson
Image courtesy of The Guardian

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… James Randerson

James Randerson is the Assistant National News Editor at the Guardian, but yesterday he was the man co-ordinating the science blogging masterclass at the Guardian.

The day included sessions from James Randerson himself (about the rules of science communication and when to break them), Jon Butterworth (about blogging as an academic), Suzi Gage (blogging the evidence) and Dean Burnett (how to be objective, topical and funny).

Together, they gave us a run-down of their science blogging experience, including some top tips and cautionary tales.

In this podcast, I speak to James about some of the main themes of the day:

– Know WHY you are looking to blog: doesn’t matter whether it’s just for fun, to practice your writing, for communicating your research to peers or for engaging with those outside of your scientific research community. Having an understanding of what you want to achieve gives you ammunition to get started. But also don’t be too rigid, as you begin to write more, your blog might evolve into something new as you find your voice.

– Understand your audience: James always tells journalism students that “there are lots of reasons for wanting to write, but no-one has ever felt compelled to read.” So you need to consider your audience: what do they want? What have I got? And how can I say it that has most resonance with them?

– Write a good headline: this will help to draw your readers in. It’s worth taking time to craft an engaging headline. Don’t just dismiss it – it’s the first thing that your readers see, so make sure it’s an honest depiction of what is to come. James suggests that  “the most import thing to do is to write a head, that if it was read out of context of anything else, so if you saw it on Twitter, that you would want to click on. But on the caveat that you don’t miss-sell your post.” Something that will sell the piece, something people want to hear.

– Content is king: you might have the best title in the world, but if your content isn’t interesting, well informed or written, you won’t find an audience. Find your own voice, give your opinions (but make it clear they are your opinions) and share your work. Once it’s out there, it might find a voice of it’s own.

It’s worth having a look at the #sciclass hashtag on Twitter for some more discussions on the material from the day. You can also follow James at @James_Randerson