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Spotlight on: Lisa Song ’09

LisaSongInside_spotlightIn May, we spoke with Lisa Song, Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter for Inside Climate News. She is a 2009 graduate of our program but came to us with a BS degree from MIT in environmental science. She interned at the radio program Living on Earth and currently resides in the Boston area.

GPSW: First of all, let me congratulate you on winning the Pulitzer Prize this year for your work. Did you pick the dilbit (diluted bitumen) story, or was it assigned to you?

Lisa Song:Thanks! I’m really lucky to work at a publication that supports in-depth reporting. The dilbit story was an extension of our coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline. Elizabeth McGowan started reporting on the pipeline in 2010, and I started in 2011. We talked to a lot of residents along the route who worried about how an oil spill from the proposed pipeline would impact their drinking water. So in late 2011 Elizabeth took a trip to Marshall, Michigan, the site of a 2010 million-gallon dilbit spill. It was a real-life case study of their concerns, and Elizabeth interviewed residents, regulators, and the company responsible for the spill. She soon realized it was a huge story and spent seven months writing The Dilbit Disaster e-book. I got pulled into it about halfway through to help with the science part. It turns out there’s very little research about dilbit that’s available to the public; so I used government reports, industry sites, petroleum engineering textbooks, and interviews with oil spill experts. After the Dilbit Disaster was published, David Hasemyer helped us write follow-up stories about regulations, pipeline safety, and the construction of the replacement pipeline. So it was a huge team effort. And Susan White, the editor for the series, was/is incredible. Her name should be on this award.

GPSW: Where do you work from, and what made you choose to live there?

Lisa: Because we’re a virtual organization, I could work from anywhere. But I grew up around Boston and a lot of my friends are still here, so that’s where I live.

GPSW: What is it like, working for a web-only publication whose writers and editors are rarely, if ever, in the same place at the same time?

Lisa: It’s kind of weird, but I’m used to it by now. I spend a lot of time on the phone discussing story ideas and edits. We rely on track changes, conference calls, and Google docs.

GPSW: Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

Lisa: More dilbit reporting: the Michigan spill cleanup is ongoing, and there was another dilbit spill in Arkansas last month, so there are plenty of stories on my to-do list. I keep hoping the news will slow down or temporarily stop so I can catch up!

GPSW: What’s your favorite kind of story to research/interview/write?

Lisa: Stories that might have an impact by correcting a misconception or pointing out some kind of flaw. I’m also a big fan of wrangling data into coherent stories (I attended an IRE boot camp on computer-assisted reporting and thoroughly enjoyed the geekiness).

GPSW: You’ve accomplished quite a bit for a 26-year-old. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Lisa: Still reporting, I hope! There are so many science and environmental stories that deserve to be told. I’d love to do more multimedia and data journalism, too.

GPSW: What is your fondest memory of MIT?

Lisa: This didn’t happen on the MIT campus, but I would have to say one of the many field trips I took with the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences department–anything that involves camping, extreme weather, and geologists guarantees adventure.

GPSW: Milk, dark, or flavored chocolate?

Lisa: Dark, ~70 percent cacao.

Lisa Song ’09 Wins Pulitzer Prize

LisaSongInsideClimateNews_mediumLisa Song, a 2009 alumna of the Graduate Program and Science Writing, has just been announced as a Pulitzer Prize winner for national reporting, as part of team that authored “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of. The reporting itself began as a seven-month investigation into a 2010 spill of Canadian tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.

It was originally published with InsideClimateNews. From their announcement:

The Pulitzer-winning entry included a three-part narrative by McGowan and Song, who described the unfolding of the Michigan oil spill from the point of view of those directly involved–residents; state, local and EPA officials at the scene; scientists; and spokesmen with Enbridge Inc., the company responsible for the spill. As the three-year anniversary of the spill approaches, oil is still being removed from the Kalamazoo River.Song followed up with articles that revealed critical gaps in federal pipeline safety regulations, while Hasemyer focused on how Enbridge’s rebuilding of the ruptured pipeline is affecting the lives of people along the route.

by Andrew Whitacre

Katharine Gammon Receives National Press Foundation Fellowship

Katharine Gammon Receives National Press Foundation Fellowship

Katharine Gammon ’07 has been awarded a full fellowship by the National Press Foundation to attend the Obesity Issues Program put on by the Anshutz Health and Wellness Center. Sixteen journalists will attend the conference in late April to cover the most recent advances in obesity studies.

GPSW Alums Named in Top Journalism Awards

Both Megan Scudellari ’08 and Carolyn Johnson ’04 were named in the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) 2012 Health Journalism Awards. Megan was recognized for her article “Missing Touch” in The Scientist, and Carolyn for her body of work in the Boston Globe, including coverage of the fungal meningitis outbreak.

From their website, “The Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism recognize the best health reporting in print, broadcast and online media. The contest is run by journalists for journalists and is not influenced or funded by commercial or special-interest groups.”

Battle at the End of Eden, Amanda Martinez ’10

Battle at the End of Eden

Amanda Martinez ’10

Sometimes efforts to save an endangered species involve the wholesale slaughter of another. Amanda Martinez ’10 explores  the practicalities and ethics of preserving our world’s secluded spaces in an insightful and nuanced short book. This is the first Kindle e-book for the Atlantic magazine.

Amanda is a science writer and multimedia producer. She’s written for The Atlantic, Scientific American, Seed magazine, and Science News for Kids and produced pieces for PRI’s Living on Earth and the Marine Biological Laboratory, among others.

Spotlight on Katharine Gammon ’07

In November, the Graduate Program in Science Writing managed to catch Kate Gammon,’07, between hosting a panel at the ScienceWriters 2012 annual meeting and her busy freelance schedule.  Kate writes for Nature, Wired, Popular Science,Technology Review, and many other outlets.  She is based in Santa Monica, California.  You can find her at kategammon@gmail.com or follow @kategammon on Twitter.

 

GPSW: You were an anthropology major in your undergraduate degree. What made you gravitate to science writing?

Kate: I’ve always been fascinated by science, and I was raised by two scientists. So even as I studied anthropology, I was always toeing the line between humanities and science – often looking at scientific questions from an anthropological view. I spent a whole summer trying to construct a picture of a whole Neanderthal lifestyle from the wear marks on a single tooth. Sometimes, writing is a similar act. And I still use the toolkit of cultural anthropology when I go into an unknown reporting situation. It sometimes helps to think about a community of scientists as an unknown tribe, and I need to quickly understand their worldview, their specific lingo, and also to evaluate group dynamics. Read more…

Seth Mnookin wins NASW Science in Society Award

Science Writing professor Seth Mnookin has been awarded the 2012 NASW Science in Society Award for his book “The Panic Virus”. The National Association of Science Writers established the Science in Society Journalism Awards to provide recognition for investigative or interpretive reporting about the sciences and their impact on society.

From the press release, “In Panic Virus (Simon & Schuster, 2012), Mnookin tells the story of the dire consequences of the 1998 publication of a subsequently discredited paper alleging that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. One judge commented that Mnookin “neatly dissects the issues behind the anti-vaccine movement, illuminating this intersection of science, politics and public health. The story is beautifully told, the people in it are compellingly rendered, and the missteps on all sides of the vaccine question told in clear detail…. In the end, the book offers both a telling look at how human beings can complicate even the most straight-forward attempts to protect public health and a warning of the risks to all of us when we choose fear- mongering over good science.”

The award will be presented at the ScienceWriters2012 meeting in October.

Grace Chua ’08 named 2012 Environmental Journalist of the Year

Grace Chua was named 2012 Environmental Journalist of the Year by the Singapore Environmental Council. This is the inaugural year of the Asian Environmental Journalism Awards. Her story, “Group told to clear out ‘farm’ on state land” from the Singapore Straits-Times was also shortlisted for the Coca-Cola Environmental Story of the Year.

From the press release: The Singapore Environment Council’s inaugural Asian Environmental Journalism Awards (AEJ Awards) aims to recognise and reward excellence in environmental journalism at all levels of society.

From passionate citizen journalists, to outstanding professional journalists, to the environmental attitudes of overall media organisations, the AEJ Awards highlight exceptional journalistic work, and encourage continued high-quality coverage of environmental issues in Asia. The awards are open to Asian journalists, as well as journalists working in and writing about Asian countries.
For more information about the Asian Environmental Journalism Awards, please visit www.sec.org.sg/awards/asianjournalism

Spotlight on Andrew Moseman ’08

Andrew MosemanIn June, the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing chatted with Andrew Moseman, ’08. Andrew is the online editor at Popular Mechanics. He has also worked at Discover Magazine and blogged for the Big Think.  You can check him out on the web at http://www.andrewmoseman.com/ and on Twitter at @Agmoseman.

 

 

 

 

GPSW: First tell us about where you live, and what made you decide on New York City.
Andrew:
I live in beautiful Brooklyn, New York, above an adorable family and down the street from Prospect Park. New York City just happened to me. I’d never lived in the Northeast prior to attending MIT, but during the harried final days of internship searching during our spring semester, I landed one with the Web department at Discover Magazine, which is NYC-based. So, in May 2008, I presented my paper at Thesis Day on a Friday, moved to New York on a Sunday (which involved an Amtrak breakdown in Rhode Island, don’t ask), and started work on the Monday. Been here ever since.

Read more…

Spotlight on Matthew Hutson ’03

In April 2012, we spoke with Matthew Hutson, class of 2003 – the first class of the Graduate Program in Science Writing.  Matt lives in New York and has just published his first book, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy and Sane.  He writes for Wired, Discover, Scientific American Mind, and The New York Times Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, @silverjacket, or check out his website at http://magicalthinkingbook.com.

 

GPSW: First, tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since you graduated in 2003.  

Matt: After I graduated in 2003, I spent six months at Fermilab writing about physics and life around the lab. From there, I went to San Diego for two years to work at Sally Ride Science as their in-house science writer, producing books and newsletters and electronic content for middle-school kids (mostly girls). Then I moved to New York to be the news editor at Psychology Today. I spent four years there before leaving to focus on my book. I enjoyed the process of book writing so much that as soon as I finished, I started working on another proposal, which I’ve been researching for most of the past year. Over the past six years I’ve also done a bit of freelancing: Wired, Discover, Scientific American Mind, The New York Times Magazine, etc.

Read more…