Behind the Scenes: What it’s like to intern at Science News | Society for Science & the Public
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Behind the Scenes: What it’s like to intern at Science News

August 11, 2016
Alex Maddon fact checked articles, wrote a notebook item and social media posts, and helped organize an upcoming e-book during his internship at Science News.
Alex Maddon fact checked articles, wrote a notebook item and social media posts, and helped organize an upcoming e-book during his internship at Science News.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HELEN THOMPSON/SCIENCE NEWS.

He came in a rising senior in high school not knowing what journalism was. And is leaving a Science News internship to maybe, one day, be a science journalist.

Read below to hear about Alex’s experiences interning with Science News.


BEHIND THE SCENES AT SCIENCE NEWS: I’ve always been interested in writing and science. So I figured science journalism would be a nice way to combine the two.

It’s pointless if only five people in the world can understand what your research is. Science News gives a lot of meaning to science because it makes science accessible.

I really enjoyed interning at Science News. I did everything from fact checking, proofreading articles, writing a notebook item for the August 6, 2016 issue, to writing social media posts, and helping to make the aging issue video. When I shared the aging video on Facebook, I wrote: “Check out this awesome video from Science News, a source that reports only the coolest and most relevant science.

I also helped Enterprise Editor Elizabeth Quill with one of the upcoming Science News e-books. No one here is a high school student, obviously. They once were high school students, now they’re professionals. But no one has my perspective. So I provided that lens on the articles in the e-book to draw high school students in.


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Previously, I took creative writing classes and worked as an editor for a student-run literary magazine at Columbia University's Summer Program for High School Students. This summer, I decided it would be nice to explore another facet of writing in a new city, with new people, in the hopes of figuring out a potential educational path.

WHAT MAKES SCIENCE NEWS DIFFERENT: In a science classroom setting, you're taught the fundamentals of biology, chemistry, and physics — which are incredibly important. What’s not taught in high school science courses, however, is current science.

You have to look at Nature or Science to get that — oftentimes it’s very difficult writing from very intelligent people doing fantastic research. But it’s pointless if only five people in the world can understand what your research is. Science News gives a lot of meaning to science because it makes science accessible, understandable, and can really spark an interest in someone.

I only had a vague idea what journalism was. The way I overcame that was through asking questions.

Science can be such a hard wall to break through. If you’re being constantly stopped in your tracks, having to Wikipedia terms or faced with convoluted sentences, you’re discouraged from caring about what the person is saying. You never build a connection with the topic or try to follow up on what you’ve read.

That’s why with Science News there’s so much value to taking complex studies and explaining them in terms that normal people can understand.

LEARNING JOURNALISM THROUGH INTERNING: I only had a vague idea of what journalism was. The way I overcame that was through asking questions. The editors and writers were so willing to answer my questions and teach me all about their profession.

I had no idea about the process of the birth of an article. I sat in on news pitch meetings where the head editor shot down a lot of ideas. It was interesting to see the back and forth between the writers and editors. I saw what ideas work and what don’t as science articles.

Later in the summer, I’ll be exploring business journalism at the New York Times Summer Academy. My teacher will be Eduardo Porter.

HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN SCIENCE: My parents and my stepdad are scientists — microbiologists and immunologists. With frequent dinner conversations revolving around receptors in HIV or the ninth planet that’s going to be discovered, it’s hard not to gain an interest in science.

With frequent dinner conversations revolving around receptors in HIV or the ninth planet that’s going to be discovered, it’s hard not to gain an interest in science.

I’m interested in organic chemistry. I’m applying to Columbia University, and might become a doctor. But because I have a real passion for the humanities, it’s possible I might go into science journalism.

WHEN YOU’RE NOT DOING SCIENCE JOURNALISM, HOW DO YOU STAY BUSY: I’m in speech and debate, which is kind of like competitive acting. My category is original oratory, and I frequently compete in local and national tournaments.

I play squash on the U.S. Junior Circuit. I’ve also played piano for 11 years, and clarinet for 10 years.