Careful what you say--there may be a reporter in the classroom. A new group of eight Knight Science Journalism Fellows began a year of study at MIT earlier this month, taking classes and in some cases, hanging out in labs.
But don't worry about being misquoted. All are highly qualified professional journalists who are not looking for stories but for knowledge to deepen their understanding of science and technology and to broaden their familiarity with new fields.
The Knight Fellows (announced in MIT Tech Talk on May 13, 1998) are here while taking a year away from their usual work for newspapers, magazines, television and from writing popular books on science. In addition to classes, they attend symposia around campus and, according to their personal interests, interview faculty members about their research. Also, Fellows attend two special seminars each week, arranged by the program in which scientists discuss the state of the art in their fields and public understanding of the research.
This is the 16th class of Knight Fellows to visit MIT, bringing the number of journalists in the program to 162 since it began in 1983 as the Vannevar Bush Fellowship Program.
This also is the program's first year under a new director, Boyce Rensberger, who came to MIT in July after 32 years as a science writer and science editor, primarily for newspapers. Most recently, he was an editor at the Washington Post. Mr. Rensberger, who has written four books on science for the public, continues as co-director of the summer Science Writing Fellowship Program at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.
Mr. Rensberger replaced the program's founding director, Victor K. McElheny, who retired in June. Mr. McElheny maintains his association with MIT as a visiting scholar in the Program in Science, Technology and Society (STS), of which the Knight Fellowships is a part. He is the author of a newly published biography, Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land, the developer of instant photography.
Knight Fellowships, an activity of STS within the School of Humanities and Social Science, are intended to improve the quality and prominence of writing for the public about science, medicine, technology and the environment in all media. Journalists from across the United States and several other countries compete annually for the positions.
Since 1994, the program has been funded by an endowment to which the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami contributed $5 million and MIT another $2.5 million.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 23, 1998.