How I fell in love with science journalism

I’ve always been a science nerd, ever since I was a little girl. Growing up, my favorite place to visit in my hometown was the natural history museum and my favorite subject in school was always science. I wanted to be an astronaut or a marine biologist.

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Instead of becoming an astronaut, I’ve met 30+ incredible astronauts. Maybe one day I’ll be an astronaut….

When I reached middle school, I got really into journalism. I loved reading the newspaper, always checking the science portion and reading science stories. I still loved science, but I was intrigued by journalism and the prospects of traveling and learning new things every time you wrote a story.

When I got to high school, I still dreamed of journalism and worked on my school’s yearbook (we didn’t have a newspaper or the funding to start one). But, my family (particularly my mother) told me that journalism wasn’t a realistic job and that I NEED to go into engineering. Eventually they convinced me enough to where I thought I wanted to be a chemical engineer and work for NASA. When I applied for college, I enrolled as an engineering major.

It only took one semester for me to realize that chemical engineering was not the job for me.

After my first semester of college, I sat down and re-evaluated my life and my career choices. I thought about everything that I enjoyed about science — learning, researching and most importantly, communicating the science. I loved telling my family and friends about the thing I was doing in my chemistry class. When I came upon this discovery, I thought about my dream in middle school — journalism. I thought long and hard about how I would make journalism a valuable and sustainable career choice, and I thought about science journalism. I was immediately sold.

At the end of my first semester of college, I switched my major from engineering to journalism.

I took my first few journalism courses and fell in love. It felt right.  Say what you will about reporters and the current state of the media in today’s society — I’ve heard it all. But, when you’re in school, professors ingrain the value of truth, facts, and reporting the world around you. I always hesitate to tell people I meet that I’m a journalism major because of how people will react; I’ve gotten both negative and positive reactions. I hope that my generation of journalism graduates can change the opinion of reporters in the public’s eye.

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One of my dream jobs: Science journalist for the New York Times!

Being in journalism, especially science journalism, I’ve received opportunities that other people may never get. I’ve been able to interview top researchers in their field, visit their labs and offices, and write a story on them. I’ve been lucky enough to work at my university’s Steward Observatory working on a science education video production team, where I get to travel to telescopes, learn about astronomy and visit world-class laboratories. I’ve completed FOUR internships with NASA doing science communications! All because I’ve specialized in science journalism.

Science journalism is a very niche field of work.

People have told me that it is a “growing” field and branch of journalism. There’s so much science happening in the world and not enough people to report it. Journalism is important to scientists because it gets their work into the public eye, which is vital in receiving funding to continue their work. It’s important to the public because it teaches readers about the complicated or technical ways that the world works and the incredible things that are happening in labs around the planet.

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Inside the Hubble Space Telescope control center, where I interned for eight months as a science communicator.

I fell in love with science journalism because I love science, I love learning new things, I love talking to scientists and engineers, I love traveling, I love writing. It’s that simple.

Have I convinced you to go into science journalism yet? If not, then I’ve done a terrible job of conveying how I feel. But I also understand that journalism, especially science journalism, isn’t for everyone.

My advice for anyone hoping to go into science journalism is to follow your passion. Learn about the science you’re interested in, talk to scientists, write your story, edit for factual errors (this is very important), and publish it! The easy part is finding a story to write, and it’s surprisingly simple to reach out to scientists and ask them for an interview. You’d be surprised at how lenient they are to aspiring student journalists. Publishing is a big scary process that I’m still working on myself. But whatever you do, don’t give up!

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Video I produced for Hubble’s 28th anniversary plays in front of the space telescope’s control center!

If you’re not interested in science journalism, that’s okay, too. Just make sure that your career choice is something that you’re passionate about and interested in doing for the next forty years or so. Don’t let others, especially your family, bully you and tell you that what you want to do isn’t possible or a reliable career choice. You will make it happen if you really want it. I believe in you.

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Thank you for reading! What do you think about science journalism? Are you a science nerd like me? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!

Xoxo’s

Emmalee

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