The Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism offers a range of opportunities to students interested in reporting on the sciences, health, nutrition, the environment and agriculture. The program's mission is to improve the quality of science reporting by training students to be more critical consumers of scientific and technological information.
Almost daily headlines tell of medical breakthroughs and public health horrors. The public and many journalists seem overwhelmed by the often-conflicting information. To help reporters intelligently sort through these thickets, the school offers courses that focus on the basics of epidemiology, multicultural health issues, emerging infectious diseases, chronic diseases, alternative medicine and substance abuse. Students learn the difference between viruses and bacteria, become acquainted with issues of health disparities based on ethnicity, gender, and other factors and read peer-reviewed studies to parse claims from pharmaceutical companies, public agencies and advocacy groups.
In addition to offering advanced reporting courses on science and the environment, the Knight Program regularly brings distinguished guests to campus to give public lectures and to work with students in small workshops.
The program has hosted Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation;" Bill McKibben, author of "The End of Nature;" ecologist and writer Wendell Berry; environmental activist and writer Vandana Shiva; Nobel biologist and Caltech President Dr. David Baltimore; and Jack Hitt, contributing writer and editor for such publications as The New York Times Magazine, Harper's and "This American Life." Recently, the program has panels and discussions such as, "Closer to Home: Eating from Local Foodsheds ", "Peril and Possibility: What the Next President Will Face, and What Journalists Might Try" with Pulitzer Prize winning author Ron Suskind, "Feeding a Crisis: the Limits of Industrialized Agriculture," and a discussion with Paul Roberts on his recent book, "The End of Food".
Additional panels and discussions with the school's Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism, Michael Pollan, can be viewed on UCTV's Website.
Working scientists regularly come to the school for brown-bag lunches with students in the program, who get a chance to refine their interviewing skills, build their Rolodexes and deepen their knowledge of particular subject areas. Recent lunch guests have included Ignacio Chapela (who works on genetically modified crops at UC Berkeley, Lynn Rothschild of NASA (on astrobiology), and Alan Weisman (best-selling author of “The World Without Us”).
For the past several years, the Knight Program has sponsored a project with The New York Times Magazine in which students contribute stories on science and technology to an annual special issue on that year's best ideas. The program also offers reporting grants to students working on stories in its subject areas.