As a medical journalist, I cover health and medical news for a local television viewing audience.
My day is spent pursuing newsworthy study findings, the latest FDA approvals, public health issues, health-related seasonal topics, and more. I do the information gathering, interviewing, writing, and on-air delivery. At the end of my day, my work culminates in my report lasting roughly 75-90 seconds, seen on televisions across southwestern Pennsylvania, and in perpetuity on the world wide web.
Others like me, with some variation in the scope of what they cover (business, politics, ethics, education, culture as they relate to medicine), exist in newspapers, magazines, trade publications, and radio industries...and in cyberspace.
While I am an MD with a master's degree in journalism, people who work in health and medical journalism have a variety of backgrounds. Keep in mind, one does not to have to be a doctor to do this well. I have many colleagues who are not MDs who are quite excellent medical journalists. Similarly, you don't necessarily have to earn a journalism degree to be good at this either.
As for my start, as part of my graduate studies I did an internship at the television station, and the news director kept me on as the medical reporter. But there's no one path to this career. Here are some characteristics I've observed about those who gravitate toward this field — a natural ability and desire to convey complicated topics simply; comfort with brevity, low pay, and the appeal of emotion and lack of appreciation for science; a knack for writing well under pressure. The ones who have been truly successful have found a niche — either in medium, topic, style, organization, or location.
I'm looking forward to sharing insights from my professional experiences here on FreelanceMD!