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Saturday
Mar122011

How To Get Started In Medical Journalism

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Perhaps you'd like to write a column in your local newspaper, or start a medical web site, or get an interview on the evening news. How do you get started?

If you want to do anything in medical journalism, no matter what the medium, a fundamental first is to write well. To write well, you need to "read" well. In other words, observe pieces in the medium you're interested in to get a feel for what's standard. Read articles in the publication you'd like to write for, watch news packages and pay attention to flow and phrasing and video elements, peruse web sites and identify what draws you there.

To try on your own, school is an excellent way to get some practice and feedback. Writing for news is a different style that takes practice. Take a class at your local university. Check with the journalism or communication departments. Many schools offer courses, such as "Writing in the Journalistic Style," and "Desktop Publishing." "Writing in the Broadcast Style" or a television production class will help you understand how TV news packages come together. If the school offers an interviewing class, take it. It will give you practice as an interviewer and as the interviewed.

As the interview subject, you aren't the journalist. But the news is more likely to come to you looking for a comment, rather than a piece you put together yourself. An interviewing class will help you anticipate questions, and help you feel more comfortable and conversational when being interviewed. This is not automatic! Doctors are notorious for using big words that they don't realize are big. What's conversational for doctors isn't always conversational to the rest of the world, and it's important to make one syllable words second nature in an interview setting where anxiety can make you utter words like "efficacy," "deleterious," and "armamentarium."

There's no one way to get started in medical journalism. And unfortunately, it's a lot of trial and error and rejection. As with any new activity, sometimes it helps to do it with supervision before launching on your own.

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