Sunday, July 4, 2021By:
It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through the internship. I’ve learned and written so much already. This week I got two new assignments that are sure to keep me busy.
I look at a lot of papers for work. Every day I look through press releases I receive via email. Looking at new papers is interesting, but a lot of research is just small steps towards an overall goal of understanding our universe. While this research is important, it doesn’t make a very good story. There is a tension between scientists and communicators as a result. I often hear researchers complain that the media will only report on the most exciting research and lead with a flashy headline instead of the raw results. But one must remember that reporters have bills to pay too. Not every academic paper is interesting enough to write even 300 words about. And even if I could squeeze a 300 word story from the paper, that doesn’t guarantee anyone will read it. The media simply does not have the resources to write about every paper nor can it waste time on stories no one would read.
But this isn’t to say all scientists are bad or the media is inherently good. It’s just to say that there is a balance. For one of my stories, the authors of the paper emailed me to say how much they liked it (which nearly made me cry).
Next week, I will get to work directly with scientists on one of my new assignments. Andrew, one of my mentors and an editor, sent me an academic paper to write a story about. Though it’s similar to the updates I’ve already written, this piece is going to be longer—about 500 words. And, on Tuesday, I’ll get to interview the scientists about their work. I’m really excited to add this human element to my story. I started writing the parts of the piece that I don’t need the interview for (the parts about physics), but I haven’t come up with a good angle for the story. That is, I don’t know what the story structure will be. But I expect the angle to reveal itself during the interview. Interviews allow the writer to ask the characters for their story. What the characters share, and in what order, provides a narrative to weave into the piece.
My other assignment is somewhat tedious—I must comb through old magazines. Not everything about work can be as glamorous as publishing pieces! But someone has to do the busy work, and I don’t mind it much. Every once and a while everyone needs a mindless task.
Madison Brewer (she/her)