Science Journalism: Misha’s Story

I always loved writing and telling stories. My mum used to find hand written notes all around the house from me but I never really imagined it would become my career.

Today I’m a science journalist, which is like a regular journalist but I just focus on reporting scientific news.

But let’s go back a bit.

Before I became a journalist I did a double degree in business and psychology at Western University.  While I was doing my undergraduate degree I volunteered for the school’s newspaper, writing for the Arts & Lifestyle section.  I loved how I got to go to different places and meet the most extraordinary and unique people.

Then during my last semester of undergrad I went on an exchange to London, England. While I was there I got involved with the student radio station.  I had so much fun there, even if I did hate the sound of my voice reverberating back at me through the headphones. It was while volunteering at the radio station that I discovered that the school I was doing my exchange at had one of the best journalism programmes in the country.

After finishing my undergrad I was unsure of what I wanted to do.  I came from a family of business people, but I was 100 per cent certain I didn’t want to work in business. I had loved the psychology part of my degree and I loved writing and being on the radio, so it seemed only natural to combine my two passions into a career.

With that I then ended up doing a Masters in science journalism at City University London. It was an intensive year where I learnt everything about TV, radio, print and online journalism, learning all the skills I needed to become a proper journalist.

During my Masters I also had the opportunity to work for the BBC and a television production company. Both experiences were incredible. The BBC was hectic and everything I imagined a proper newsroom would be. The television production company was filled with the most creative people who spend most of their time in a room thinking up mad ideas for television programmes.   

Now I work for Cancer Research UK, one of the world’s biggest charities, as their science media officer. I essentially try and make the science behind cancer research easily understandable to anyone.

No two days are the same. I write, make videos and do a bit of everything in between.  I love the variety of work I get to do and the challenges that get thrown my way.

My day usually starts with me going through that morning’s news to make sure I know what’s happening.

Sometimes there’s a story that we will need to respond to. For example, a few weeks ago the Daily Mail ran a story about how oxygen causes lung cancer. So my team quickly wrote a post explaining why that study was poorly done and why you won’t in fact get lung cancer from breathing.

But usually I’m just reporting on an academic paper that’s about to be published. When writing a news story I get to talk to scientists and experts in their field and I get to learn so much about what other people are passionate about. I love immersing myself in a new subject.

Since becoming a journalist I’ve learnt so many strange and wonderful things. I’ve learned about nuclear waste policy, urban beekeeping and even about novel drugs for llamas.

 A time when I really get to dig my heels into a subject is when I’m writing a blog post. These articles go more in depth about a topic and they take on a more chatty tone of voice. I really get to flex my creative muscles by trying to make the story as engaging as possible. I also get to do a bit of investigative work and uncover things which is always really exciting.

Making videos also give me a great chance to be creative because it can be hard to make research about little cells visually engaging.  So I really need to think outside the box and work with a variety of people, like animators and data visualisation specialists. And an added bonus with videos is you get to go to some pretty cool places.

So my advice for anyone who wants to become a science journalist is first, love science but have a healthy sense of scepticism (not all science is great). Second, write for anything and everything! Get as much experience as you can. And finally, it helps if you’re insatiably curious, tenacious and unrelentingly when it comes to getting a story you want.

Misha Gajewski