The Science and Medical Journalism Program at UNC is one of the nation's first master's programs of its kind. The program teaches skills needed to work as a practicing science and medical journalist across all media platforms.
Science and medical journalists provide a bridge between scientists and consumers by making complex science understandable to a broad audience of readers, viewers and listeners.
In summer 2014, the Science and Medical Journalism Program partnered with students and faculty from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, to launch a multimedia website documenting how investors in solar energy in Spain have suffered as the government has cut returns to investors.
The site — thesuncanbeyours.com — offers a possible object lesson to American solar investors, according to Dr. Tom Linden, director of the Science and Medical Journalism Program and co-executive producer of the project.
Pictured: Setting up interview with solar farm investor Juan Antonio Cabrero, third from left, are master's graduate Daniel Lane (back to camera), professor Tom Linden and professor Álvaro Bonet from the University of Navarra's School of Communication. Photo by Courtni Kopietz.
As part of the core master's curriculum, students have partnered with North Carolina Public Television to produce an ongoing series about environmental issues facing N.C. State Parks. In the last year-and-a-half, students have produced six reports ranging from threats to a temperate rain forest in the Blue Ridge Escarpment in western N.C. to efforts to rehydrate the Great Dismal Swamp in eastern N.C. and southern Virginia. In late 2013, science and medical journalism students produced the following reports:
These reports followed earlier stories on Gorges State Park, home to one of the only temperate rain forests in the eastern United States; Eno River State Park, where biologists are trying to control an Asian aquatic plant that is crowding out native species; and Fort Macon State Park, where rangers fight a constant battle to prevent the ocean from washing away this famous landmark. Students have also produced reports for statewide public television examining fracking, biomass and solar as renewable sources, and hybrid electric vehicles.
You can also view our half-hour documentary, "Environmental Heroes," that tells the stories of how one tree lover is on a mission to save the hemlocks from destruction, how two farmers are practicing sustainable agriculture to bring food to the table, and how local citizens are cleaning up a polluted urban creek. To view other award-winning medical, science and environmental TV reports, check out our TV Web page. Students also have published recent articles in The Scientist, Endeavors magazine and local publications.
Tom Linden, M.D., is director of the Science and Medical Journalism Program and Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Medical Journalism in the school. Faculty from both the J-School and the Gillings School of Global Public Health teach required courses in the master's program. A number of distinguished guest lecturers also work with the program's students.
If you're interested in reading a new book that offers how-to tips for aspiring medical journalists, check out the "The New York Times Reader: Health & Medicine" (2011, CQ Press) by Dr. Linden. For more information about educational opportunities in science and medical journalism, read Dr. Linden's article, "Learning To Be a Medical Journalist," in Nieman Reports. You can also read an essay by Dr. Linden in the journal Electronic News about ethical issues raised by television doctors reporting on the Haitian earthquake.