Journalists interested in specializing in science might want to read this open thread at Discover magazine’s Not Rocket Science blog.
Zimmer: “A couple years out of college, intent on finding a magazine job, I took a test to be a copy editor at Discover. I proved to be a terrible copy editor, but I was allowed to cling to a job, fact-checking and then starting to write short pieces. A very lucky break: I was hooked.”
Tim Radford, former science editor of The Guardian: “At some point early in my Guardian career, I picked up a bit of agency about a tsunami in the Philippines that might have killed thousands…I went down to the science library and looked up three Scientific Americans and a so-so book and wrote 800 words about the mechanisms of a tsunami (scary thrilling drama, enhanced by phrases like “incalculable havoc”). That rather doomed me. Whenever there was some event that made the foreign desk furrow its brows — Chernobyl, Challenger etc — I was involved.”
Of course, the best advice might come from former Scientific American editor-in-chief John Rennie: “Work hard at something you can be passionate about. Take advantage of as many opportunities, professional and otherwise, as you can because you don’t know what they will bring you. Cherish any chance you get to learn from the best, and then learn from them. Be smart about getting lucky.”
Same as any field, really.