Crash Courses

Science essentials for local reporters

This Crash Course covers science essentials for local reporters.

Journalists: Get Email Updates

What are Crash Courses?

SciLine has helped thousands of journalists add small but important doses of science to their local news stories. This free one-hour “crash course”—designed specifically for local and general assignment reporters—taught basic principles about how science works and ways it can be used to strengthen virtually any news story.

Former longtime Washington Post science reporter Rick Weiss and Ph.D. neuroscientist Dr. Tori Espensen together laid out key do’s, don’ts, and pitfalls to watch for when including science in your news reporting. Among the topics covered:

  • Knowing whether and how science can enhance your story;
  • Different kinds of studies and what each can—and cannot—reveal;
  • Practical tips for identifying credible scientist-sources and interviewing them; and
  • How to get the essentials from scientific reports, studies, and press releases.

Forty-five minutes of interactive teaching were followed by a 15-min open Q&A.

More Science essentials for local reporters sessions will be scheduled in the future. Journalists, you can sign up here to be alerted when registration opens for future sessions and to join SciLine’s network of journalists.

Can’t make this session? SciLine will have more sessions scheduled in 2024!

Rick Weiss


Rick founded SciLine in 2017 in response to changes in the journalism landscape that saw a loss of specialty science reporters from many local newsrooms and a need to help local and general assignment reporters integrate more research-backed evidence into their reporting. He has more than three decades of experience in journalism and media affairs, including 15 years as a science reporter at The Washington Post, where he wrote more than 1,000 news and feature articles about the economic, societal, and ethical implications of advances in science and technology. He has led science and technology strategic communications operations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, including within the White House and the Department of Defense. Rick earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Tori Espensen

Scientific outreach manager

Tori is a neuroscientist and science communicator with a background studying how the brain functions in severe mental disorders. She completed both a Ph.D. in biological psychopathology and a postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatry at the University of Minnesota and has written about science as a blogger, journalist, and scriptwriter. In her role as scientific outreach manager, Tori applies her scientific and communications expertise to finding interview-ready scientists to connect with journalists looking for expert sources. She also leads the curriculum development and instruction of workshops aimed at increasing journalists’ understanding of science and their comfort with incorporating scientific evidence into news stories.

More Science essentials for local reporters sessions will be scheduled in the future. Journalists, you can sign up here to be alerted when the next training is scheduled and to join SciLine’s network of journalists.

Past sessions were held on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, November 8, 2023
  • Tuesday, August 8, 2023
  • Wednesday, May 10, 2023
  • Tuesday, February 7, 2023
  • Tuesday, May 10, 2022
  • Thursday, September 15, 2022