The end of an era: no more science columns

Way back in 1989, when I was communications officer of the Saskatchewan Science Centre, I began writing a science column. It appeared in the free-circulation weekend paper published by the Regina LeaderPost, the Sunday Sun, and I also did a version of it on CBC Radio’s Afternoon Edition, hosted by Colin Grewar.

At first, the column quite often focused on something related to events at the Science Centre; so, when we had an exhibit on memory, I wrote a column about memory (and also wrote Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star, but I digress).

When I left the Science Centre to become a full-time freelancer in 1993, I took the column with me. It kept running in the Sun and on CBC, but the various weeklies around the province who had been willing to take it for free refused to pay for it (including my own former employer, the Weyburn Review! Not that I’m still bitter), so I quit sending it to them.

At some point the Red Deer Advocate picked it up, and for a while the St. John’s Evening Telegram ran it, but though I periodically tried to get more newspapers interested in it, nobody ever wanted it. I did build a pretty good list of email subscribers, though, as people signed on through my website.

The Evening Telegram only ran it for two or three years. The Leader-Post kept it, though it got much shorter (in the Sunday Sun it used to run over 1,000 words, and by the end it was under 700). Then, three years ago or so, CBC decided 17 years of me as a science columnist was enough, and they stopped using me for that (though I did other things). And then, just last year, the Leader-Post, ordered by the financially struggling CanWest to cut costs and use fewer freelancers, decided to cut my column (because the $25 a week they were paying me–if you call that pay–was apparently going to save the chain from bankruptcy).

I had almost pulled the plug on the column with the CBC stopped carrying it, but at least I still had two newspapers, even though what they were paying barely made the column worthwhile. When the Leader-Post dropped it, that left only the Red Deer paper, and while I was happy to keep appearing there, it really no longer made any kind of business sense to keep writing the column. Still, I plugged on for a while because of all the email subscribers and because the column provided regular updates to this site, and helped drive traffic to it.

But…not very much traffic. And as I took on more and more editing duties with the Fine Lifestyles stable of magazines here in Saskatchewan over the past year, while still writing fiction (with a five-book YA fantasy series beginning this fall, my first adult fantasy for DAW and other projects), writing the column went so far on the back burner that it was anybody’s guess which day of the week I would get to it, if I did at all–and when I realized this week I’d missed two weeks without writing a column at all, I realized it was time to pull the plug.

So the science column is history, after more than 20 years. That’s a pretty good run of columns.

If anybody were willing to pay enough for it to make it worth my while, I’d love to keep writing it. But, given the circumstances…

I’m going to keep scanning the science sites for interesting items, but in future, I’m more likely to just put up a short post with a link rather than writing about it myself.

If you’ve been a reader of the column, I hoped you enjoyed it! And if you haven’t and are wondering what you’ve missed, well, pretty much every one of those 20 years’ worth of columns is right here on Lots there to keep you reading.

Heck, at one a week, it will take you 20 years.

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1 comment

  1. I’m sorry to hear that – I enjoyed reading your science columns. As a science teacher, I appreciated your way of rendering complex science theory and experiments into simple language able to be understood by the average reader. While I understand why you are stopping them, I will miss them. Good luck with the rest of your writing!

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