How an AHCJ workshop sparked a prominent NYT science story

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Hilary Swift for The New York TimesPhotographer Hilary Swift’s compelling images of Wyoming accompany Beil’s piece on suicide rates in rural America.

Photo: Hilary Swift for The New York TimesPhotographer Hilary Swift’s compelling images of Wyoming accompany Beil’s piece on suicide rates in rural America.

Are workshops really worth your time?

You have to apply, make travel arrangements, and then sort through a massive amount of often technical information packed into just a few hours or days, all while under pressure to produce. Journalists can leave with mountains of research papers, stacks of cards, heaps of data – but wondering if anything really can come from all of it.

For Texas-based freelance writer Laura Beil, the answer is a resounding yes.

Before AHCJ’s Rural Health Workshop had even ended, she had an assignment in hand for The New York Times. While listening to a session at the day-long seminar in Fort Worth last summer, she was hit by inspiration. One slide from one presenter got her thinking – is there a story here?

It took weeks of research, dogged source building and some travel, but a few months later her piece ran on the front page of The New York Times’ Health &  Science section.

To find out how she did it, read her essay here.

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