Science & Technology
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 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 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.
This course will provide a basic background for those interested in covering public health and medical issues. It will stress the importance of incorporating a broad social perspective in reporting on stories about health. The course will help students understand the challenges and complexities of the field and will provide tools for developing story ideas and wading through the massive amounts of available information (and disinformation). The class will examine key public health concepts, issues and debates.
Students in this course will learn to report on and think critically about licit and illicit drug production, consumption, regulation, controversies, access and more. We’ll cover how to read scientific studies on drug effectiveness, use and risks; interpret drug policy and its history; “follow the money”; and understand the rules and regulations guiding drug use, restrictions, enforcement and pricing. The class would focus on a series of case studies on drugs that have received national coverage in recent years, including Truvada, crack cocaine, meth, marijuana, Sovaldi, the MMR vaccine, and others.
December 3rd at 8:59 pm PST
Application available September.