Tuesday, June 08, 2004

DC is abuzz with Reagan's funeral preparations. I briefly considered trying to stick around for some of it. However, I'm pretty sure tomorrow is designated as the travel day, so I might as well get out of here before the processions take place in the evening.

The last two days have been extremely busy, and extremely cool. In terms of the orientation sessions, I've basically been getting a crash course in communications. It's like mini j-school. In general I feel good about how much I learned from my days at my undergrad newspaper, and how much of this business feels instinctive. However, hearing the guest speakers (mostly reporters, and one journalism professor) talk about their craft, I'm still picking up some good new tips about interviewing, note-taking, writing, and the editorial process. I've never had any formal training in communications, so I'm picking up at lot of communications jargon along the way, too.

Most of our sessions deal with radio and newspaper. Maybe this is because it's so new to me, but radio broadcasting seems crazy fun. So much attention to the way words sound, not just how they "look". Today was the NPR tour. We got to visit the news offices, recording studios, etc. Even cooler was the roundtable discussion with some of their science reporters (on air personalities included David Kestenbaum, and Joe Palca, if you're a NPR geek like my thesis advisor and care to know. Er, not like my advisor reads this...) It's good to hear about what journalism is like from people with science backgrounds, and have done this fellowship program as well.

I still don't fully understand what I'm getting into by working at a monthly publication, but hey, I'll have the rest of the summer to figure that out.

Another neat thing is learning how the writers and reporters came to their positions at news organizations, or established their freelance careers. Many of the science journalists come from science backgrounds, and this concept of transitioning from the ivory tower of academia to the (unknown housing structure) of communications is no longer seeming so strange. A majority of the guest speakers were fellows of my program, as well, so that's extremely encouraging.

The other fellows pretty much fall into one of the following three categories:
1) I'm done with grad school, lab work sucks, I'm going to be a science writer. (These types are pretty communications knowledgeable, passionate and fueled by their disdain of academia.)
2) I'm in grad school, lab work is kind of a drag but I'm going to go back and finish, and science writing seems like a great career (I'd align myself with this group.)
3) Oh my god, I'm in my 2nd year of Ph.D. work, lab work sucks, I might leave altogether, and maybe I'll find something better to do this summer. (I'd say I was in this group back in the day, but not any more.)

Rest assured, while I'm having geek-fun with all of this professional networking and educational business, I'm doing a fair amount of eating and drinking as well.
While my last trip to DC centered around the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan area, I've been doing some of the 14th street and U street eatery/drinkery scene this time around.

Normally I say to myself "OK, I'm in DC -- let me eat something here that I can't get in Nashville." Now that I'm moving to New York, well, less of an emphasis on that. But I've had some excellent Thai and Ethiopian food while I've been here. Thank god for all the walking I'm doing; otherwise I might have to sew new clothes out of the hotel sheets just to fit into something for the trip to NYC.

I could ramble about more, but I need to get some sleep for another morning of schmooze, etc.

Long story short: This adventure totally rocks thus far.


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