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Adam Hinterthuer is a freelance science and environmental writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. He's written about bisphenol-A in plastics for Scientific American, Asian Carp and electric fences for BioScience and one man's crusade to clean the mighty Mississippi for the now defunct Plenty magazine. Once upon a time, he was a podcaster for Scientific American's "60 Second Science." In his free time, well, actually, with two young daughters and three part-time jobs, Adam doesn't have free time. If he did, he'd spend it camping, hiking or biking (sans kids) with his wife, Carrie.

3 responses to “The Source is With You: Context Versus Color”

  1. Dyani Lewis

    Thanks for the interesting article. I also tend to leave out comments from sources when I know them to be completely incorrect. I think it’s especially important when you are quoting them as the expert in a particular area. The reader expects to be able to take their statements at face value, so quoting them saying something stupid or ill-informed, or just outside of their area of expertise undermines the overall correctness of the article you are writing. But if there are opposing view points because the science is contentious, then bring on the overstatements and simplifications, because these can really help to illustrate how divergent two camps are.

    The point you make about whether or not to leave a person out entirely is also a good one. I hate to do this, because of the effort that’s gone into finding a source and interviewing them, perhaps leaving little spare time to find an alternative source. I guess I’m still working out how many interviews to do for each piece, too.

  2. Adam

    Good points, Dyani.

    I think we often get caught up in good storytelling and that can sometimes be at odds with good reporting. It’s hard to pass up on a really memorable character. I’d say the old adage “kill your darlings” applies here – just because they’re a colorful quote or you’ve written a particularly pithy line, it doesn’t always mean it’s a fit for your story!

    A big culprit here is simple lack of time and space. But, of course, that makes source and quote selection all the more important. In my opinion, if you’re going to get 2 or 3 quotes, max, into your piece, it’s no time to sacrifice context for a little added color.

  3. Dyani Lewis

    Yes, it’s definitely a case of killing your darlings! But better to be your own harsh editor than send off something that’s flabby with extraneous quotes for someone else to cull.

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