RELIGION REPORTING FOR MEDILL NEWS SERVICE | WASHINGTON (Sept. to Dec. 2009):
I spent my fourth quarter at Medill (from Sept. to Dec. 2009) reporting on religion in the nation’s capital. My coverage ranged from spot and advance pieces on the National Equality March to a trend story about evangelical Christian support for nuclear disarmament. Many pieces were also published by the Religion News Service, which feeds to more than a hundred news organizations in the United States.
Long-term projects are a specialty of mine as well, so I appreciated the opportunity to participate in a special project for Medill looking at the intersection of religion and the environment. Four students, including myself, received special funding to go on a reporting trip — I went to New Orleans. Each reporter focused on a different natural element (earth, air, fire and water). My piece looked at religious groups who feel a moral duty to preserve the world’s water supply. And I designed and implemented the web site for this special section as well.
One of my other favorite clips from this quarter exemplifies my point about finding data everywhere. I received a press release about the White House working with Health and Human Services to create a booklet on dealing with the swine flu. Taken as it was, it was just a press release. But that booklet was data, and within it, the government was suggesting churches consider suspending the practice of communion. Finding church reaction through phone calls, and good old-fashioned pavement pounding landed me a deeper story, published in the Washington Post.
Other pieces included:
1. Profile: White House official connects faith communities to leadership (Whorunsgov.com, a Washington Post project, Oct. 29, 2009)
2. Greek Orthodox leader calls on community to respect, repair world’s water (Oct. 21, 2009)
3. Blair: World peace depends on religious understanding (The Oklahoman, Oct. 7, 2009)
HEALTH REPORTING FOR MEDILL NEWS SERVICE | CHICAGO (Jan. to June 2009)
I spent the bulk of my time at Medill focusing on health reporting, a beat close to my heart due to the help I received from health journalism when I had my own medical struggles. I learned how to conduct sensitive interviews, write with precision, care and accuracy and distill complicated information — especially with many of my pieces focusing on neurology, the science of the brain.
This piece on the rare brain disorder progressive supranuclear palsy told the public about a condition that was not well-known. Some readers later emailed to say they had been able to connect with others in a similar situation because of this article. That’s the beginnings of how you make a difference with journalism.
I enjoy working on long-term projects in addition to daily reporting. This piece took most of a quarter, and described epilepsy research that’s redefining scientists understanding of how pathways in the brain communicate. But just describing research, yet another form of data, is only half the battle. How has a real person been affected by the illness? We find out by meeting an actress whose career has been stalled by the disease.
Some of the other pieces I produced during this time include:
1. Free screenings help teens get to the heart of their cardiac risks (group project, March 12, 2009)
3. UIC chief of robotic surgery committed to being on the cutting edge (March 4, 2009)
5. Virtual reality therapy effective in reducing burn patients’ pain (Feb.5, 2009)
6. Cementless cup device for hip replacement proves long-term durability (Feb. 4, 2009)
7. Virtual reality more than a game, new therapy (Jan. 29, 2009)
8. The brain is built to make old memories stick (joint byline, Jan 27, 2009)
9. University of Chicago researchers shed new light on acne therapy (Jan 21, 2009)
Can’t get enough of my opinions from my data-obsessive blog?
I had the opportunity to observe the chief of transplant surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital for a week as part of my health reporting seminar. What made it really interesting? It was the same department where I received a kidney transplant about three years before. Journalism’s about telling the stories of others, but for once, outside of a blogging environment, I turned the tables.
1. This time, it’s not my kidney (March 4, 2009)
And on a lighter note, here are some posts for Medill Washington’s class blog reflecting on my experiences on a reporting trip to New Orleans looking at religious groups who feel a moral duty to preserve the world’s water supply.
1. Exploring the virtues of group media trips (Oct. 23, 2009)
2. Accepting a slower pace in the Big Easy (Oct. 21, 2009)