Nobody cracks open a textbook after high school or college. So how do people learn about complex subjects like science, technology, health, and the environment and get the information they need to be savvy consumers, intelligent voters, and responsible citizens?
Much of this information is delivered by journalists and media organizations—often in the face of a gale of misinformation and doubt. Which is why Knight Science Journalism at MIT is lucky to be embedded within an academic department (the Program in Science, Technology and Society) and a school (MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences) where faculty and administrators understand the challenges of communicating about science, and believe in supporting the brave professionals who undertake them.
Since December, SHASS news writer Daniel Pritchard has been talking with the 2014-15 Knight Science Journalism Fellows about how and why they do their work and what they’re learning during their two terms at MIT. Today the finished interviews were published on the SHASS news site.
As acting director of the Knight program, I’ve obviously gotten to know this year’s outanding crop of Knight Fellows very well. I can tell you that Pritchard’s nine brief Q&As capture the Fellows’ personalities and diverse interests and ways of thinking with remarkable fidelity.
Here’s one exchange I particularly liked, between Pritchard and Knight Fellow George Musser, a contributing editor at Scientific American:
What advice do you have for a young MIT student who is interested in a career in science journalism?
Don’t “go into” science journalism. What I mean is, don’t consciously go into science journalism. If you want to write about science, start writing. If you want to shoot video about science, shoot video. Just do it. See whether it suits you. If it does, great, keep going. If not, nothing lost. MIT students probably don’t need to be told this. They’re doers.
George’s sentiment doesn’t diminish the importance of training opportunities like MIT’s own excellent Graduate Program in Science Writing. And, in his modesty, George also downplays the years of hard work and skill-building that get science journalists like himself to the point where they can be considered for a program like the Knight Fellowships.
But his answer does convey the can-do spirit and the fearless curiosity shared by the best science journalists, and certainly by all of this year’s Fellows. They’re a terrific crew, and it’s my pleasure and honor to work with them every week. I’m grateful to Pritchard and SHASS for putting them in the spotlight.
Here are links to the individual interviews Pritchard conducted.