The first time I read something by Chris Mooney, I was in a college laundry room. He would be on a panel I wanted to attend on intelligent design so as I waited for my delicates to dry, I cracked open his 2005 book The Republican War on Science.It is hard not to like the person Chris Mooney represents. He is young, politically active, a science journalist and successful. After graduated from Yale in 1999, he has gone on to be one of the most recognized and published-writers in the area of science and policy.
In this past week alone I came across three new pieces he published: One on the future of the blogging business in the Columbia Journalism Review, a book review on climatologist James Hansen for New Scientist, and an essay calling for a science debate for the presidential candidates in the newest issues of SEED (There’s no link but here’s a blog entry by him on a similar subject). In addition, he blogs at The Intersection, speaks at national conventions and colleges, and just finished his second book Storm World last spring (Reviewed by the co-director of my program Ellen Ruppel Shell in The Boston Globe).
In brief, he does a lot and as an aspiring science journalist myself, I have to wonder how. It’s obvious he’s well connected but it also seems he writes many opinion pieces and blogs, which while taking a fair bit of research and thought are a bit easier to write than a series of features. I’m guessing he puts the most time-consuming work into writing books.
Chris Mooney also stands out to me because he is an activist for science. For a field that is often so quiet when it comes to politics and society he gives scientists and researchers a voice. This is not to say he is a biased reporter, but in articles where he expresses his opinion, he is not afraid to be critical.
As a reader of his work, I value his opinions because he is so informed and often brings new perspectives into his writing. His are the articles I put down and am changed. His coverage of science journalism in the developing world (In which my professor Phil Hilts is quoted) made me appreciate my first amendment rights and the role of the journalist in society. His SEED piece on calling for a presidential science debate encouraged me to become a supporter of the cause.
After a conversation I had today, I’ve realized how important it is for a writer to be useful to their audience. He does this by encouraging readers to be better journalists, scientists, but most of all citizens.