According to the American Press Institute, a journalist is a person who “places the public good above all else and uses certain methods—the foundation of which is a discipline of verification—to gather and assess what he finds.”
Anyone who truly aspires to report and write copy has, undoubtedly at one point or another, called into question his or her profession: Am I a real journalist? What makes a real journalist?
I’ve been asking myself that question lately. I used to think I wanted to be a journalist simply because I studied English. Since I couldn’t be a poet, I might as well give reporting a shot. At the very least, I would be producing something, anything, on a daily basis.
Quite recently, I’ve begun to understand the craft—and even more than that—the vocation of journalism.
Being a journalist requires an itching, burning curiosity about something, a curiosity so great it can keep you awake at night. Until you report and write about that something, you know you will not rest.
Understanding this drive is by far my most meaningful accomplishment. Deep in my heart I know I will always be a journalist because I will always want to keep asking questions. And I agree with the American Press Institute about the reason for my asking questions: for the public good above all else.
These days, I work at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at its Office of Public Programs. The news department writes about science and technology and produces multimedia elements to support the nonprofit organization and many of its programs.
When I became a Chips Quinn Scholar in 2015, I had no idea that a year later I would be where I am in my career. The training, resources and insights, as well as the network that I became a part of through this stellar program, have proven invaluable to me.
As a Scholar, I had the opportunity to learn from incredible mentors about the craft. Far more than that, I understood that there were people out there who cared about me, as a human being, a minority, an aspiring so-many-things-at-the-time.
And I made some neat friendships that taught me much about the vast array of people like myself out there. I wasn’t alone.
I feel lucky to have landed a job even before I graduated from the University of Central Florida. Even more so to work at a place where my opinion is valued and my background, experiences and cultural differences are recognized. A place that values diversity, and where I get to write about it all the time—whether I’m covering “diversity in STEM education,” or “the need for more science writers from underrepresented backgrounds,” or “the challenges of being an LGBT physicist.”
I’m also grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded. More recently, I am grateful to return to film production. Besides the bit of media relations, photography, reporting and other things I get to do, I also get to produce, shoot and edit videos and do animation. I am thrilled to be using both my English degree and minor in film, and my journalism training. I can’t wait to see what is next for me and what else I’ll learn.
Ask me what I would like to be when I grow up (more), and I would say I want to be a published poet, journalist and filmmaker. Why stick to one when you can do it all, right?
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