How the WIRED summer went

After our fellowship was done, we were all flown back to D.C., and we had a “poster fair”. All of us fellows who had been placed at newsrooms pasted and arranged our articles on posters, and then we had some very nice and supportive guests tell us what a good job we had all done.

My poster:


And then all of us fellows spent the rest of the two-day “wrap-up” sessions joking, giggling, eating, and having each other’s back. It was great.

Now that it’s all done, here in no particular order are the stand-out moments as a AAAS media fellow:

1. We gave each other certificates for “superlative awards” (like what you do in high school year books), and one of the fellows brought along her childhood sticker collection to decorate the certificates with. They came out looking glittery and glamorous!

2. I got to email, call, and interview people at the Sweden UN office. I also talked to someone at the Swedish consulate.

3. And I got to interview the presenters of an Arabic science show that I’ve watched for years!

4. Seeing my name on the WIRED home page, my name coupled with the article I wrote. It never got old

5. Biking across the Golden Gate bridge.

6. Writing my favorite article of all, which was full of good people, quiet, storied forests, and voices that are heard less often.

7. Writing about Sweden, Arabs, and North Carolina (in three separate articles)

8. The apartment I sublet in Berkeley, with the attic bedroom where you can climb out the window onto the roof, and sit and read in the sunshine

9. The Ghirardelli ice cream store right by my train stop

10. Emailing most any scientist, activist, or natural resource worker and having them be eager to get back to me and be interviewed by me (though this did not extend to government people, especially in Maryland)

Fifth article for WIRED

I published 3 articles within 8 days! But there are two extra weeks you should count at the beginning when I was working on them and didn’t publish anything.

One was about air pollution in a mostly Black neighborhood in Maryland. Oh yeah, I mentioned that here before. It’s the one I did the GIS analysis for.

Click here to read it. I was super excited to write this story because I felt I was being very noble in helping people who very rarely get their voices heard in the national media. [You see, my motives are not exactly altruistic, rather self-flattery.] I wanted to do a story that brings out the fact that we don’t seem to care if we place all the polluting factories where Black or other minority children will get sick with asthma or other diseases.

wired article 5 image

For this article, I also got artwork credit. I made the smoke coming out of the smokestacks in Blender. I think I will always be a little pleased to think that I got to make some real actual published and credited 3D art. It took me hours of plodding through a “quick smoke” tutorial, and 16 rounds of edits and modifications to the smoke before I was done with it. But the art department was very happy.

After the article got published, two of the people I interviewed emailed back to say they liked it a lot; the third did not. S/he pointed out something I wrote at the very beginning as being very offensive, and declared that s/he didn’t read past that point, and s/he’s always disappointed by journalists!

Years ago, an email like that would have sent me into a tailspin. I would have been both incredibly angry at the person; and also beating myself up for having done something that could cause such offense. Perhaps I might have thought: I will never bother to help you again! You just enjoy yourself with the polluting factories! Clearly, you don’t want my help! All followed by a grim determination to do something so good, that the offended party would hear of it and realize they had totally misunderstood!

I felt all that this time, too – obviously, I’m writing a whole blog post about it. But the feelings were more subdued. I wasn’t in utter despair at myself; I was more annoyed like at a mosquito bite.

I checked back through my notes, and decided I hadn’t done anything wrong, I had written the truth. But .. and here was another truth … I could very well have worded things in a way that would have satisfied the truth to the other person. That I neglected to do so was of course not maliciously done or anything. But that neglect came at the cost of something incredibly important to that person.

So something that does feel like a personal disappointment is: I usually pride myself on being sensitive to other people’s wishes. It is a personal disappointment to know that I am so far removed from the atmosphere and life of the person who wrote me so as to not notice or take care of something important to them. I dismissed their anger with a roll of my eyes, and cheapened their offense by likening it to a mosquito bite.

So despite the noble smirks I was giving myself, and the GIS fact-checking, and my Blender3D artwork, I feel pretty flat about this article.