Rachel Jones has been a journalist for 32 years, starting at The St. Petersburg Time in 1986. She came to health reporting through personal experience. “I fell at a young age, cracked a tooth, and we couldn’t afford to go to a dentist,” she said. As one of ten kids, born into poverty, Jones didn’t go to a dentist until she was 13 and says even as a child she knew it was wrong that other people went to doctors when they were sick when her family couldn’t. “I was angry about it, I thought ‘this is wrong, I ought to be able to go the doctor,’” she says. “And that really underpinned my interest in social justice and access to healthcare.”
That interest has taken her all over the world, and in her session “Going deep: Health reporting—a global view,” Rachel explained how other journalists might follow her lead.
The Top Five
- Put yourself out there for opportunities for a high level of training; for healthcare that includes stuff you might not think you’re interested in … epidemiology, biostatistics, global health.
- Look for fellowships, conferences, or trainings that will get you overseas. Keep an eye out for fellowship opportunities, make international contacts at conferences
- You don’t have to travel to pitch global health stories. You can dig into the story first, sell a pitch that justifies or covers travel costs. In this way, freelancers have more opportunity to develop that network and story than staffers. It depends on the story, but for some stories if you have a robust set of statistics, that’s enough for a pitch. If you’re just breaking into global reporting, you can start with stories that you can report locally, via data and sources, get your foot in the door, and move toward reporting in-country.
- You have to stay aware, keep current, do your reading. It’s important to be aware of and acknowledge your blind spots as an outsider, and then work hard to go to local sources, not the big international NGO or university in town. Resist that temptation to talk to the top five people everyone always talks to.
- Focus your social media brand and the content you share not just on local issues but on that global piece.
A big new area of coverage in the global health arena is climate change and the climate change-health nexus.
Think about tying global health pitches to the UN Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000, now called the Sustainable Development Goals.