Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and professor at the University of Wisconsin, has been named director of MIT’s Knight Science Journalism program effective July, 2015.
Wade Roush, a reporter, technology writer, and editor-at-large at Xconomy–and, before that, at Science and Technology Review–has been named acting director for one year until Blum’s arrival.
Deborah Fitzgerald, dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, said she was “very excited about Deb coming on. She’s one of the leading science writers in the country” and “I have complete confidence in her vision.” Roush, she said, “represents the tech side and the business side” of science reporting, knows MIT, and complements Blum’s expertise.
“It’s like a dream team to have both Deborah and Wade to work together moving forward,” said David Kaiser, professor of the history of science and head of MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, of which the Knight program is a part.
“The Knight Science Journalism program, to me, has always been one of the most exciting programs in science journalism,” Blum said. “It’s a program that helps people make their careers richer, it’s a program that helps illuminate science, and it’s a program that has always been there to help raise the bar in the profession.”
Blum said she hopes to make changes that will build upon the program’s success. “I’d like to do some more experimental things with the boot camps,” she said, referring to the short courses offered for journalists throughout the academic year. “I’d love to do one on the intersection between science and science fiction, and bring writers from both genres in and really explore that. I’d like to do more with e-book publishing.”
She added that she hopes to expand the digital training begun under her predecessor, Philip J. Hilts, who retired in June. “How do we tell the stories of science and technology in the 21st century?” she asked. “There’s already so much good stuff here. It’s a fabulous program, but it would be great to make it famous for a larger audience.”
Roush, a Ph.D. graduate of the Science, Technology, and Society program, said that in addition to running the program for the coming year, he will lay the groundwork for a new initiative “to make MIT a global center of discussion about how the public gets engaged in policy issues in science and technology.”
Kaiser said that he is excited about the prospect of strengthening ties between the Knight program and the Science, Technology, and Society program. “The full-time faculty and I are not journalists,” he said, but “a lot of the questions we ask are similar. How do science and technology evolve over time and place? How do they have an impact on the society in which they are embedded? Those are the key questions that drive my department, and they are some of the questions that drive science journalism as well.”
The Knight Science Journalism program offers full-year fellowships to about a dozen journalists each academic year, who take courses at MIT and meet regularly for journalism seminars and field trips. It also administers the Knight Science Journalism Tracker. And it offers three short courses every year–the boot camps–on urgent topics in science, medical, and technology reporting.
[You can find the MIT news release here.]