In late January, Kate Howard, managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, conducted one of the most important webinars for any journalist — green or seasoned — to watch: “Perfecting the 15-minute background check – for all sources.” How important is it? Well, she presents her tips every single year at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, teaching attendees how to “background like a boss,” and the room is packed every time. Continue reading
One of our older, incredibly helpful tip sheets at the Medical Studies Core Topic is Liz Szabo’s overview of how to use social media to find real people for articles. In that tip sheet, Szabo lays out a great overarching strategy on setting yourself up to find the sources you need for the topics you typically cover and how to monitor conversations not only for sources but also for story ideas.
That comprehensive approach, however, is aimed more at setting yourself up for a longer story or for a regular beat, and “starting early” is a key aspect of it. What if you’ve just been assigned a story and have less than a week to find patients or other “real people’s voices” — especially if it’s not an area you often cover? Continue reading
The first AHCJ conference I ever attended was in 2011 in Philadelphia. I had only recently learned about the organization and knew very little about it. I’d signed up for a field trip, but I had brought my 8-month-old with me and was up late the night before, so overslept and missed it.
When I actually got to the conference (my aunt watched my son), I caught the second half of a Thursday workshop with Ivan Oransky, M.D., (now AHCJ’s president) and Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org on how to understand and responsibly report on medical studies. It was the session I would eventually end up leading myself years later. Continue reading
In a recent social media post, a fellow journalist asked how others get up to speed on reporting about topics new to them, or even covering a new subtopic within an area they already cover. Here’s some of what was shared in that online discussion, and I encourage others to share their tips in the comments as well.
If it’s a quick piece with a tight turnaround and I find I’m out of my depth, I go back to the editor and say so. I’ve turned down assignments even after taking them if I realize I just don’t have the necessary foundational knowledge. Continue reading
Like many reporters, I have developed several niches in my reporting within medical research. I most often write about pediatrics, women’s health, mental health, vaccines, public health (including gun violence) and, increasingly, health disparities or related social justice aspects of health and medicine.
Because I try to include links throughout my writing to back up the figures I use to provide context on a topic, I would frequently find myself looking up the same data again and again. For topics like vaccines, it usually wasn’t too difficult to find studies or statistics I had previously cited. They were generally easy to find on the CDC website, or I could remember a couple key articles I’d written where I linked to the majority of the figures I might want to link to again. Continue reading
One challenge when covering medical conferences is that, depending on your publication’s needs, you often must conduct many interviews on the fly both with presenters and with attendees at the sessions.
Since many other people also are vying for the presenters’ attention, you might only be able to get in a few short questions after a session. Continue reading