This post was written by mentee Calayah Heron, who participated in the Science Journalism Workshop
Running from the train station, like I do every time I’m running late, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Science Journalism workshop was going to turn out. I was very excited and I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store for us that morning. Part of it was because every workshop so far, from my personal experience, has been amazing, so I figured this one shouldn’t be any different. The other reason was because it was a journalism workshop, and I myself am a [high school] journalist. So yeah, excitement.
Navigating my way through the little hall towards the back of the room, I looked on with unabridged interest as the Craft Talk started and our speaker, Rose Eveleth, told us about herself. She explained what she did, what she’d seen, the people she’d met and all the things she’d been through with such excitement and pride that I couldn’t help but be a little entranced by her. It’s the part [of the workshops] that I love the most, actually: when our guest speaker tells us about a typical day in the line of her work. It sort of captures me.
I always picture myself doing what they do, living the way they live. But this one was my favorite because I’ve sort of always pictured myself in the shoes of someone like her, doings the things she does, living the way she lives. Her career was the one I was aiming for, and I couldn’t be happier to hear all about it.
As I was listening to her, there was one thing she said that stuck with me—the one thing all journalists must do no matter what—ask questions. She told us how science journalism is often criticized as boring or weird, but science is in fact all around you, and these questions can help you figure out medical decisions. For example, should you donate blood, organs, or cells? What happens when you get sick? What does everything mean, and what are your options?
Science journalism allows you to make decisions in a better way and actually feel confident in those decisions. It gives you an understanding of how things work and how the world around you operates. Rose explained, “it allows for people to understand other people better, which is really an important thing—one we probably need more of in this world.” When asked if it was difficult to keep her own personal bias from affecting a piece, something that I’ve often struggled with myself, I was surprised to hear Rose reply in the affirmative. I’ve always thought professional journalists stayed neutral no matter what topic they were covering.
She said nobody is unbiased. There’s this idea that journalists are supposed to be this objective source. However, that’s an unreasonable expectation of a person, because that person is in fact a person. But the way to get around that is to interview a lot of people and ask all the questions. You have to get every bit of information you can from all the experts you can find, and take every angle. Once you’ve gathered up all your information, you’ll find that you have all sides of the story.
For her personally, she tells us that “the hardest part is figuring out the best way to tell the story.” It could be through an animation, a narrative feature, or maybe even a podcast. Sometimes the story is even better told at a certain place. It can be better at a place that’s a little bit more technical like Scientific American, or it can be told as a general purpose; an economic piece would go into Planet Money. As a freelance writer Rose has to figure out where her stories fit, and pitch it to those people.
Then, by the time she got into all the other pros and cons of being both a free-lance writer and a science journalist, I was already hooked. In that moment I was sure I made the right decision in choosing a career in journalism.
I learned so many new things that day, and the excitement I felt hearing everyone read during Closing Lines made my heart swell. This was going to be me.