A formidable practice
Science journalism is the central way many of us learn how advances in science and technology are affecting and changing our lives — in everything from daily choices about food or health care, to issues that impact the planet as a whole.
But crafting great science journalism is a formidable challenge. Science journalists must be schooled deeply in complex scientific and technological practices, theories, and information. They must have superb skills in writing, video, and other media that can convey the facts, import, and implications of new discoveries and data. They must be ace reporters, bringing critical thinking and hard questions to their investigations. They must have command of language that is both nuanced enough to do justice to intricate ideas, and clear and compelling enough to engage a broad public audience.
For the past 30 years, the Knight Science Journalism (KSJ) program at MIT, has been helping talented science journalists meet that challenge.
A world leader
Now the leading fellowship program in the world for science and technology journalists, the MIT Knights program admits 12 to 15 seasoned journalists each year to spend two terms at MIT honing their science reporting skills, while working alongside scientists and researchers.
The selected journalists come from all over the globe, and as alumni, form an ever-growing community of international colleagues. This year the KSJ program welcomed 11 journalists from six countries, who cover a range of scientific fields, including climate change, medicine, human health, and quantum mechanics.
SHASS Communications recently spoke with the current Knight Fellows, to hear their perspectives on their fellowship year at MIT, and their views about the purposes and rewards of their field. (Click on the Knight Fellows' name to read their interviews.)
Catalina Arévalo, environment correspondent, EFE News Agency
"If journalists don’t understand the science of climate change how can they effectively inform the public about the issues?"
Aleszu Bajak, freelance science writer
"With the resources at MIT and Harvard, we’re growing our knowledge base and contact lists to hopefully change the conversation about some of the most salient scientific issues of our time."
Julia Belluz, writer and senior editor, Maclean's, Medical Post
"Good science journalism involves engaging critically with science and putting it into context. We should report on science with the same thoroughness and skepticism we would apply to anything else."
Nick Clark, anchor and correspondent Al Jazeera English
"The field of journalism plays a crucial role in helping the public understand science. To get it right, journalists need to get the science right, and then make it comprehensible to the lay public."
Mark Harris, freelance science and technology journalist
"Examining history through a lens of technology not only helps us understand how the world we live in came to be, it can also lend a perspective on how to tackle similar issues of trade, power, and intellectual property today."
Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times
"Our job is to go out in the field, into the laboratories, and into the libraries to tell stories with plain language so people will engage and come back for more."
Jason Palmer, science and technology reporter, BBC News
"As a former scientist — one who would have loved to be at MIT as a student years ago — there’s simply no better academic destination than MIT, and no better fellowship focused on the particular craft of science journalism."
Jonathan Sahula, freelance producer, cameraman, editor, and animator
"The Knight Fellows share a sense that MIT is offering us a unique opportunity to interact with scientists and researchers as they do their work."
Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Writer, Communications Assistant: Kierstin Wesolowski