That's a loaded question, because it assumes that something between medicine and hospitals and health care caught my eye. But the truth is that somewhere between securing my English BA and looking for grad schools, my dream of writing for a living died because nothing I wrote seemed important. And Pat Thomas promised me that the health and medical journalism (HMJ) program would prepare me for a career of writing. So I signed into it.
But I've found the real joys of the field as I go along. Only now, after eight months as a neophyte, can I really say that this is where I need to be, and list several reasons why:
1. I realized at the get-go that health journalism is infinitely more beneficial than most other forms of journalism. Why? Because it concerns people's lives - how to preserve their bodies, what to avoid, how to improve their minds, what to invest, what may happen down the road. Health stories almost always serve the public. That's the most obvious answer, and the one that usually reaches my tongue first. But if that were the only reason, I'd be much happier in the one PR class I'm taking now.
2. Finding health stories requires some creative thinking. Sure, there's the obvious stuff to chase, like health care news and hospital updates. But Pat says that anything could be a health story, which opens up tons of possibilities (the majority of which I have yet to explore). Why, if I nosed around enough, I could even find some health-related tale to tell within all the gigs I go to. Plus, we've had the extra challenge all year of looking for the bigger picture in our local stories, which requires an extra layer of ingenuity. When I cast about for story ideas, though, I often jump into another fun aspect of health journalism.
3. Remember, I'm from a liberal arts background. So lots of topics and terms come up which I'm completely unfamiliar with. Which means that I'm always learning something new. YAY!
4. Health stories can involve some really nasty and exciting details. Granted, nothing I've covered yet contains anything as gnarly as, say, vaginal mesh (brrrr), but the options are there for the taking.
5. The most compelling reason to pursue health stories, though, is their investigative nature. This relates a bit back to #2, but refers to the process of gathering the pieces together, fleshing out the tale. We came into this class thinking what a PAIN it was to locate multiple sources, but now it only makes sense to scope out as many points of view as possible. And now the joy of cornering a good source and walking away with a prize interview is too big for words. Sure, every form of journalism demands this sort of investigation, but health stories can include more colorful characters.
At any rate, my foray into HMJ has only begun. Who knows what other delights I'll encounter down the road?