The Story I Never Wrote

Last year, I abandoned a story. It happens, journalists don’t write every story they think they might. But this one I still think about. It started innocuously enough. A paper caught my eye about looting and archaeology. The premise was somewhat counterintuitive: the author argued that in places where the economic situation was particularly dire, […]

Simplify, Simplify

I’ve owned only one copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and I’ve owned it since high school. It’s a 1980 Signet Classic paperback, original price $1.75. Inside the creased front cover, in ballpoint pen, a long-ago student has scrawled, “I want to go to sleep. I’ll never last 1 hr + 20 min reading!” I wasn’t that student—I […]

Antevernals in the Anthropocene

Over the past twenty years, naturalist David Lukas has hiked thousands of miles of trails in the Sierra Nevada, most of them accompanied by a slim, sturdy little book called Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. Lukas likes nature and he likes words, and he especially likes to know the history and meaning of our words about […]

No, Mr. Penn, That Is Not Why We Hate You

Like every foreign journalist living in Mexico, I’ve been watching the Sean-Penn-interviews-notorious-drug-lord with a mix of humor and mild disgust. It’s like some kind of adolescent game of Mad Libs. El Chapo meets Sean Penn in the mountains to talk about farts and penises. I tried to read the article but could only force myself […]

Conversation with Michael Balter: On Not Teaching

Michael:  Hi Ann! After six years of teaching in NYU’s science journalism program (SHERP), and a year before that teaching at Boston University, I have decided to take a break and hand over my beginning writing, research and reporting class to someone else. What a tough decision. I love my students–so many of whom have […]

Email is an Untamable Beast

It’s not my imagination. Even gmail is telling me that my email is out of control, threatening that if I don’t dump some of my tens of thousands of emails (or pay them money) I will be “unable to send or receive emails.” That’s starting to sound appealing. I’ve caught myself fantasizing about creating an auto reply: […]

Redux: Freelancing Still Sucks. Still, Long Live Freelancing.

This post was a response to a column called “Freelancing Sucks,” which was published just about a year ago. Well, freelancing still sucks—and we still need freelancers. Last month, Fast Company senior editor Reyhan Harmanci published a column called “Freelancing Sucks.” She wrote: Everyone knows this: the freelancers, who are forced to beg for months-late checks; the editors, […]

A Singular Data Point Is A Datum, You Idiots!

There’s a moment when you realize that you’ve become the person you hate. For me, it happened at the dinner table. I was telling (ok, ranting to) my husband about how my employer, FiveThirtyEight, has chosen to adopt as its house style the usage of the word data as a singular noun. “So you’ve become […]