The Rocky Beginnings of a Frustrated Reporter

I wrote before about what you might expect to get from this site, as a way to help me focus. The right focus can bring together some amazing conversations, as Venessa Miemis has been able to do.

Maybe a little personal backstory is in order.

I was/am a science and math nerd. In a big way.

I likely disappointed a number of my teachers by not pursuing a Ph.D of some sort, where I could make a real contribution to society. But there were two realizations I had about myself that played into that decision:

  1. I have a wide variety of interests among the sciences, and
  2. I have a distinct knack for explaining things.

Put those together, and you have a nice starter kit for a budding Science Journalist. (Lord knows there aren’t enough people making science interesting, exciting or tangible.)

The Path Denied

By the time I was to the point in college where you have to declare a major, I figured the best way to pursue this dream was to go through Geology. It has a little bit of physics, a little bit of chemistry, and a little bit of biology. It makes for a nice nexus across the disciplines.

In my year as a Geology Major, I was asked by professors and graduate assistants where I would specialize. After all, you can’t just get a degree in Geology. That’s useless! You must get a Ph.D, and that means focusing on either vulcanology, paleontology or petro-chemical geology. In other words, put myself in one of those silos. I had two professors in one semester who had neighboring offices, yet couldn’t even hold a conversation with one another because they were too deep in their own little worlds.

Very Important Science happens deep in those silos – but for me, the interesting science happens at the intersections of disciplines. Which meant even more school. And no guarantee I’d be able to exercise those whims of interest.

So — already working at a television station — I ditched the whole effort and got my degree in Broadcast Journalism, with a minor in Political Theory. Also graduated with 40 hours in hard sciences and calculus, which didn’t come very handy in a profession that is repulsed by math.

I am who I am

My very nerdy bookshelf

In the murky depths of my soul, though, lurks the unfulfilled destiny of the frustrated science reporter. One who keeps abreast of the new and interesting and exciting — which also might just be too complex for instant understanding. My bookshelf is proof.

My impetus to write and to share comes from a need to help others understand. And maybe I’m drawn to the things others are not explaining very well, because if others are doing the job on certain topics then I don’t need to.

Maybe I am in the right place at the right time. Journalism as a whole is imploding under the weight of outdated distribution models that aren’t cost-effective. “Specialty” writers are even more rare on staff, and are almost exclusively found in the freelance market. Maybe the service I provide here is a model for… well, something. I don’t know what.

But I do know that I enjoy writing. And explaining. It’s the bedrock of who I am, no matter what I am paid to do.

Share Button

Comments

  1. Wow, interesting background. I never really liked math–sciences were a little more tolerable, but not by much. Imagine my amazement when I absolutely fell in love with Geology in college. Alas, I had waited too long (putting off my science requirement, like pretty much anyone in Poli Sci) and I couldn’t get enough credits to have it as a minor.
    I did really, really enjoy a geology class at my college that was labeled an interdisciplinary class. It was an upper level volcanoes and earthquakes class. The course was required to pull students from a variety of majors to contribute. We studied of course the science behind disasters, but also government response (thus the poli sci majors in the class–I think there were 2 or 3), medical needs, rebuilding and economic impacts, etc..
     

  2. Props from a fellow science buff who grew up reading National Geographic and Popular Science, and watched Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” for recreation. I decided to go into journalism because I really liked writing about it all, so I understand your struggle.  It probably says something that my three awards as a news writer, in order of highest to lowest, were for humor column (about Y2K), environmental/conservation writing (about conserving energy), and humor column (about fishing).

    I got my start in journalism by writing for a student newspaper and preferred covering the science departments to the city council, but fell into covering local government when I moved to Florida. The local science interest was in hydro-ecosystem conservation, plant pathology, and meteorology — aka fishing and water supply, citrus and hurricanes — so that’s what we wrote.

    Hurricanes are part of the reason I wound up writing for the Red Cross. So here I am, but I struggle to find time to keep up to date on the science that brought me here. If there is a way to connect the passion to the paycheck, I’m all for it.

Trackbacks

  1. Ike Pigott says:

    @VenessaMiemis – Yeah, you got a shout out: http://ike4.me/o54

  2. Ike Pigott says:

    My blog is the result of an unrequited aspiration (but aren't most?) | http://ike4.me/o54

  3. Ike Pigott says:

    I didn't get to be what I should have been, but this explains why I do what I do now | http://ike4.me/o54

  4. Raul Quiroga says:

    RT @ikepigott: I didn't get to be what I should have been, but this explains why I do what I do now | http://ike4.me/o54

  5. Ike Pigott says:

    @MeredithGould – I've been wrestling with that in the last couple of posts. http://ike4.me/o53 and http://ike4.me/o54

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ike Pigott, Ike Pigott, Ike Pigott, Ike Pigott, Ike Pigott and others. Ike Pigott said: Here's part of the answer of why I write some of what I do | http://ike4.me/o54 […]

  7. Ike Pigott says:

    Here's part of the answer of why I write some of what I do | http://ike4.me/o54

  8. Ike Pigott says:

    I'm still looking for some input on naming my Muse: http://ike4.me/o53 and http://ike4.me/o54