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In over a decade as a freelance journalist, Robin Mejia covered health and science stories for the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post Magazine, Wired, Science, CNN and many other outlets. She uncovered problems at the FBI crime lab, covered controversies in epidemiology, and profiled Nobel laureates. Her work has won several national journalism awards and been anthologized in the Best Technology Writing series. In 2010, Robin returned to school to deepen her understanding of research methods and data analysis, earning an MPH from UC Berkeley in 2012. As this book goes to press, she’s working on a PhD in biostatistics.

7 responses to “Breaking in outside your beat”

  1. Jill U Adams

    Such a good post, Robin.

    My out-of-my-comfort zone experience was interviewing a bunch of political candidates in two neighboring towns. I started by talking to my town’s town supervisor — who I’d met before he was in office. I asked him for advice on how to interview these people and get beyond their talking points. Among other things, he told me to look them in the eye and trust my gut. That might seem obvious — or homespun — but it was very helpful and calming to me, as I had been psyching myself out.

  2. Ann Finkbeiner

    The first time I did that, an editor assigned a short piece on protein engineering. I didn’t know what a protein was and I hadn’t a clue why you’d engineer one, let alone how. I started with a textbook and then asked too many sources too many questions and finally sort of got it. As I remember it, though, the story was pretty bad.

  3. Adam Rogers

    Jeez, I gotta get a comfort zone.

  4. Kendall Powell

    I once was assigned to cover the annual meeting of the Mars Society, a group that is half rocket scientists half Star Trek enthusiasts who research and advocate manned voyages to Mars. They even have training sites in the Arizona desert and the Canadian High Arctic where people “pretend” to live on Mars. It was out there and I was nervous. But scientists are scientists and it’s easy to get them to open up about a field they are passionate about–and bless them when they have the patience to make sure you understand the details. In the end, it was one of the most fun assignments I’ve ever had.

  5. Monya Baker

    I’m most comfortable in hard-core molecular and cellular biology, so when my editor asked me to write about an upcoming report estimating the global prevalence of violence against women, I was dumbstruck. the only thing I know about epidemiology is that statistics are tricky.
    But I called a writer friend who actually does statistics for fun, and she gave me the name of someone friendly to call, who gave me the name of someone else with more expertise. I made eight calls for what would typically be a two-source story. Ultimately, I produced a piece that discussed how the survey could help research going forward when the other outlets that covered it just took topline numbers from the press releases.
    Not a perfect story, but one I was proud of.

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