Zimmer highlighted a few other ways that digital media is changing the news. Sites like The Atavist are (contrary to conventional wisdom) encouraging of “insanely long-form journalism,” he pointed out, and e-books are now the best-selling category of books, having outstripped hardcover and paperback.
“What’s fascinating to me is the way e-books are getting integrated into social media,” he said. “It’s not very hard to for you to put up a tweet or a blog post with a link to a Kindle edition of a book. So really it only takes about ten seconds from someone sending a tweet, to you reading a book.”
The panel’s “discussant,” Hillary Rosner (yet another award-winning journalist, though one that has worked primarily in print and launched her PLoS blog, Tooth & Claw, two months ago) weighed in with a couple other interesting observations. One was a story about a friend of hers, Science News reporter Alexandra Witze, who had e-mailed earlier in the week from the Kennedy Center Space Center in Florida, where she was covering the chaotic and eventually postponed final launch of the shuttle Endeavour.
“She was saying that even though she was actually at the Kennedy Center in the NASA press room, she was getting the bulk of her news about what was going on from Twitter,” Rosner said. “She was sitting in the pressroom getting news about the fact the press conferences were being rescheduled from Twitter. That really says something.”
It’s worth watching the entire video recording of the panel. Zimmer, Yong, and Rosner had many other anecdotes, incisive and humorous, about science writing in the digital age, the ways it has grown up, and the ways in which it is still growing.