Episode Notes | Transcript | AskTheGuest

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Sujata Gupta and Science Journalism: An Unusual Journey via Japan, Park Service to Johns Hopkins and Beyond.

Episode summary introduction: Sujata Gupta is Social Sciences Reporter at Science News. Sujata is an alum of Cornell University and Johns Hopkins.

In this podcast, Sujata gives us a peek into the world of Science Journalism, and how one goes about becoming a Science Journalist.

In particular, we discuss the following with her:

  • What is Science Journalism?
  • How do you become a Science Journalist?
  • How to distill a Study into a News Story?
  • Advice to Aspiring Journalists

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introducing Sujata Gupta, Social Science Journalist [0:57]
  • Professional Background [3:29]
  • Johns Hopkins’ Science Journalism [7:35]
  • Journalism under Duress  [10:16]
  • Arduous Route to Journalism [11:44]
  • The Freelance Mode [13:43]
  • How a Study becomes a News Story [19:08]
  • Advice for Aspiring Journalists [27:00]
  • The Realities of being a Journalist [34:06]

Our Guest: Sujata Gupta is Social Sciences Reporter at Science News. Sujata graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University in Science Writing.

Memorable Quote: Sujata Gupta: “Good to think of my career as a spiral, what we hope is going up. Sometimes, [it’s] hard to tell when you are in the middle of a spiral”.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

<Start Snippet> Sujata  0:18  

I was so struck when I made the switch to science journalism. And like I said they don't have a science background. It was the first time that I had to write about things that I didn't just immediately understand. You know, like because I covered you know, town I covered the city of Rochester inner city crime, I covered municipal beats, I covered development and sort of these rough and tumble neighborhoods. I could immediately understand the issue, you know, it is a direct presentation.

Venkat  0:57  [Introducing Sujata Gupta, Science News]

Sujata Gupta is Social Sciences Reporter at Science News. Sujata is an alum of Cornell University and Johns Hopkins.

During my routine scouring of college news, I stumbled upon an article on the worsening Mental Health in College Students during the pandemic. The author was Sujata.

Digging deeper, I found that Sujata is a Science Journalist with a passion for a variety of the current Social Science topics.

Sujata joins us today to give us a peek into the world of Science Journalism, and how one goes about becoming a Science Journalist.

So, without further ado, here’s Sujata Gupta!


Venkat Raman  1:50  

So first of all, welcome to our podcast, College Matters.Alma Matters. Great that we could have you on.

Sujata  2:00

Thanks for having me.

Venkat Raman  2:02

Sure thing. As I think I mentioned to you, I got the article you had in science news about mental health of students. And I just was intrigued and thought to be interesting to talk about a lot of different things, not just that. And then as I dug a little deeper, I thought, a lot of interesting things to talk about here. So. So yeah, so I thought it'd be a great idea to sort of trace your professional journey here, your route to journalism, science journalism, and thought it would be beneficial to our audience, which is mainly listeners all over the world. As of last count, we had over 50 countries, listeners in 50 countries. So we're very excited about that. And these are all aspiring students hoping to study outside of their home countries, and lots of them are. And even if they don't, journalism is sort of relevant to every context. So I thought it would be a very good conversation to have.

Sujata  3:07

Sounds good.

Venkat Raman  3:08

Okay, so let's jump right in. Maybe the best place to start is maybe you could give us a little bit of your background, maybe your educational background, and even though that may not have 100% correlation with what you're doing today. I think it's always instructive.

Sujata  3:29  [Professional Background]

Good to think of my career as a spiral

Venkat Raman  3:34  

isn't going up? Or is it going the other way, so that's

Sujata  3:37  

we hope it's going up sometimes, it is hard to tell when you're in the middle of a spiral. Um, anyway, so I am the social sciences reporter at Science News, and then at the magazine for about just over two years now. And I am building a new beat. So we did not have the social sciences reporter before, we do have a behavioral sciences reporter and where the distinction is between the two of us is not always entirely clear. But um, he mostly covers like physical anthropology and historic, sort of historic social issues more frequently. And I cover sort of modern day societal issues. And, you know, we overlap a little. Anyway, so um, I've, like I said, had a sort of meandering, meandering path to this point.

But the real quick and dirty is I went to undergrad at Cornell, and then I taught overseas in Japan for a couple years. I'm dating myself, but 9/11 happened about a month after I arrived. I arrived in Nagano. And so I didn't have much interest in journalism. Before that. I always liked writing. I was like a writer, not a journalist. And that just really changed my worldview quite a bit. I became obsessed with reading, you know, like a lot of us, I became pretty obsessed with reading the English language papers that were available. And I was also traveling quite a lot at that point in my life. So I was traveling all over Southeast Asia, and picking up the English language dailies as I went along. And so it's just very striking to me to be traveling the world and reading the news, and sort of the fallout from 9/11 and the potential for war, invading Afghanistan, and then invading Iraq,  

just reading the perspective from, from these Asian publications, and then coming back to my, to visit my parents, sort of in the midst of it all and seeing that the coverage was so phenomenally different. And so that was sort of my window into how, how journalism works. And that how that objectivity is as a sort of a worthy goal, perhaps, but is hard to attain. And I think it was sort of the precursor to going into a field like social sciences, which attempts to identify some of these hidden sources of bias is a very negative word, there's probably a positive equivalent, but these sort of hidden sources of information that make their way into the news, and I was always very, very interested in that space.

And so it was after I came back from Japan, after two years, that I pursued journalism more seriously, I was starting from nothing. So that was exciting. It took me a while to find a job. You know, so I landed at the Finger Lakes times, which is a small daily in Central New York, cut my teeth there. And I feel like a dinosaur now, a lot of people do not start at little daily, anymore. That was sort of the route back in the day. Um, and then I went on from there, I worked at an alt weekly, I did some freelancing in the middle, I took a total, what's left turn, and I joined the Park Service for a few years. And then at some point, I brought it all back together. And I went and I got a master's in science writing from from Johns Hopkins University. And I've basically been doing science journalism ever since. So that was about a decade, a little over a decade ago, where I started at this path.

Venkat Raman  7:25  

so tell us a little bit about the Hopkins program. You did mention that. It's, it's been taken off or it's been just,

Sujata  7:35  [Johns Hopkins’ Science Journalism]

yeah, it's been discontinued. So there is, and I'm not as familiar with it. But there is an online virtual science program that Hopkins still offers, it was actually in existence when I was there. But we were two separate programs, we had a physical program, which really small, less than 10 students. And we also had the online presence, and now they, I think they just have the online version. But um, for anyone seriously interested in science journalism, these masters are sort of the golden ticket, I feel like they give you connections in a very niche field. So science journalism is very, it's a small world, you know, so I don't know where your readers are in any of this trajectory. But we have the National Association of science writers, which is sort of the place to, to start, I would say, to start getting information. And these, they're usually one. My program was nine months. And I think that a lot of them are about a one year program. The program in Santa Cruz is very well known. It's really geared at people who are scientists going into journalism. So I was a journalist going into science journalism, so it's a little different. But um, yeah, there's also a program at BU at Boston University, there's one at NYU, there's a few of these programs, there's not that many left I feel um, but anyway, they give you they give students like a real grounding and how science news not my publication, but science news specifically works, you know, how you structure a basic news story, how you interview a scientist, how you go into a lab, when that becomes feasible, again, you their pathways to internships, which are really key, I think, in the field. So I in my 30s, you know, got an internship at New Scientist, I think which really built my career as a science journalist. I spent six months in San Francisco covering the Gulf oil spill, oddly, that just happened to happen while I was there, and where nobody was covering it. So. So I covered that. And, and then, yeah, so I think the internships are really one of the biggest perks of these programs and also just the training that comes along with it.

Venkat Raman  9:58  

Why do you think, why do you think these kinds of programs are being discontinued. So is that because things are moving differently in journalism or that online is killing some of this? I would imagine that the content still needs to be provided, right? I mean, this work needs to be done.

Sujata  10:16  [Journalism under Duress]

This is a pretty big question you've asked. So journalism is obviously a complicated field right now, to say the least. There's a lot of sort of fly by night publications, there's a lot of polarization. There's, unfortunately, it's a shrinking field. You know, newspapers are obviously dying out. You know, online publications are sort of coming up. So it's a pretty messy space. And I think, and I'm not an expert in how these programs are run so just that out there.

Venkat Raman



But I think it can be hard to convince people to go into this field, given all the sort of barriers to success that now exist. But I don't know. I mean, maybe Hopkins alone was struggling. And some of the, you know, some of the really, bread and butter programs are still going strong, as far as I can tell. So. So I don't I To be honest, I don't know if it was a one off that my program was discontinued, or if it's a wider problem.

Venkat Raman  11:26  

What is it that I guess drives you every day to do this? I mean, you just mentioned it's a pretty arduous route, you’ve taken, but I’m, I'm guessing you're doing well with this now, but what kept you going?

Sujata  11:44  [Arduous Route to Journalism]

Masochism? No, I have this weird, it's like a, like an unhealthy relationship, in some ways like this is what I do is, I have left journalism, obviously, when I became a park ranger and I, when I went back to grad school for science writing, I don't think I had any intention of going back to journalism, I figured I would either stay in the parks like returned to the parks, or I would work in museums, which you know that my training was sort of setting me up for that.

But because I have the journalism background, and I guess I must have missed it a lot more than I realized. I just started pursuing work. So I was back in grad school, and a lot of doors opened back up, it's really important to take advantage of the grad school or undergrad space, because a lot of internships and a lot of jobs like fellowships, you can really only apply in a very short window, either during grad school, or right after grad school.

And so I had those opportunities, after sort of giving up on my journalism for several years, and I just kind of jumped on it, like I got, try to think as I started writing for a publication called Earth magazine. And I also, so at this point, I was very much a generalist within the sciences, I should say, it wasn't any sort of specialized thing at all.

And I wrote a lot for science now, which I don't know if it was the online arm of Science Magazine. And so that gave me like the, you know, quick and dirty, like, write these stories fast. And I don't know, I just got sucked right back. Like, Oh, right, this is what I do. And, and at some point, it just becomes what you do, and you want to do it, well, And I think that's, that's where I've, I have found myself.

Venkat Raman  13:43  [The Freelance Mode]

What kind of freelance stuff did you do? I mean, how did you, how did those happen? What typically goes on to get those kind of assignments? And then ultimately, sort of landing at Science News now.

Sujata  13:58  

So I had a long though not entirely successful career, I think it did okay. But um, I guess one thing I should say is that I went into journalism, because I felt like there were a lot of stories out there that weren't being told, or they were being told in a certain way.

That's kind of a vague thing to say, but just like, it was traveling quite extensively when I decided to go into journalism, and just felt like we weren't writing about the people who had lost limbs in Cambodia, for instance, we weren't telling their story. So I think at some point, I thought it would be a foreign correspondent material, I did some travel, um, but not that much.

Um, but in terms of freelancing I I don't know that I fully intended to become a freelancer. So I finished my internship at New Scientist and was kind of on the fence about Should I get another internship or should I? You scientists was like, well, You know, will sort of treat you as a correspondent. So I had hit that sort of in my pocket. And so I ended up becoming a freelancer.

In hindsight, I actually would have done like two more internships, I would have just stayed in the internship orbit for a little while, because it builds up like relationships that are hard to build once you go freelance. But I didn't, I didn't know that, that would be my one very big piece of advice. Um, but I it was lean at first. I mean, they kind of warn you. It but it is, it was hard.

And this was 2011. So the economy was still not that great, I guess it's probably even worse now. It wasn't super great. But I, you just start hustling, you learn how to pitch. That's one big skill that if you do go to grad school, they will probably teach you how to pitch. And writing a proper pitch is, is a skill in its own right. Like, you basically want to hook an editor really quickly, because they don't have a lot of time to read what you've sent them. And then you have to develop a very thick skin, which mine is sort of medium thick, still, it's not as thick as it needs to be.

Because there's a load of rejection, especially at first. Um, and, you know, so initially, I was sort of pitching the shorter stuff, which is really common, but I really wanted to move into longer features to sink my teeth into some projects, and those can be even harder to sell. But the upside, of course, is when you do sell them. I mean, I managed to have some pretty cool experiences.

My first big feature, I would say that I sold that required travel, I got to go to Mexico with some scientists who they were, oh, my gosh, they were birding scientists. And I'm trying to think what the heck The story is about it was so long ago, I should have looked it up anyway. They were birding scientists, and we would just go out into the Mexican desert and try to trap these birds. But it was just like, so low tech. I was like, wait, this is the best we can do. A big net. And Oh, right. It was a story about how the Mennonite community in Mexico was kind of gobbling up more and more and more land. Which was so counterintuitive to me not knowing much about this community, um, and how that was driving out bird migratory bird populations. This came out in High Country news many years ago.

That I don't know, that really whet my appetite for doing more sort of travel based reporting, it was really an interesting experience. So that's what I always pursued, those can be really hard sells, my goal would be like, once a year, somebody's gonna pay the big bucks for me to travel somewhere. That's kind of what I was what I would focus on like, but sometimes I sort of miss shot I wrote a story about, about efforts to farm pigs in an ethical way, but like mass farm them, not like let them go out in the wild or whatever. So it was like a hybrid between factory farming and just like I'm forgetting the word, but just like raising a few pigs. But that did not send me anywhere exotic that Matt sent me to rural Indiana and rural Pennsylvania. So it was still a great story.

So yeah, I mean, I just really enjoy getting out in the field, which in a pandemic has been the one thing I missed the most, I think.

Venkat Raman  18:37  

So. So I think what might be interesting, is maybe share a few of the interesting topics or relevant topics and the maybe we can start with the story that I that caught my attention to just the mental health of students maybe can talk about your other work on gender inequality, and things of that kind. So maybe we can just talk a little bit about these issues

Sujata  19:08  [How a Study becomes a News Story]

About that the story you came across was what we call a stat. So it's a it's a really short story. And we take a statistic and we turn it into a story. And so that story, really, it was a pretty striking statistic. They looked at the mental health of several 1000 undergraduate students in sort of the immediate aftermath of the lockdowns in this country, and that was seven large universities. So they wanted to make sure they had, you know, relevant to your audience. They had an international population because they wanted to look at sort of college students, which I didn't know I wasn't fully aware of that college students have higher mental health problems than the average population. So that was news to me. But they knew that they knew like college students have especially in this country inordinate financial stress. They're often lonely, they're often isolated. And then during a pandemic, that just gets amplified. And so they found, I mean, I don't think the findings were surprising in who was at risk, it was surprising and how many people were at risk. So you know, they really identified like, younger undergraduates were more at risk than the older ones who presumably had a little bit more community, they found that Asians, surprisingly, Asian students were at higher risk than others. They found that people who were spending a lot, I think one of the most striking findings, like people who are spending eight plus hours a day on screens, which I'm much older, but I spent eight plus hours a day on a screen for work, that they had much higher mental health problems. And the flip side of it was that people who were getting outdoors, we're really faring a lot better.

Again, sort of obvious findings, but not things that we were just really like, drilling down into, and in terms of like, this is what we need to do to protect the mental health of a student population. And so I think those researchers are continuing that line of work.

 And it'll be very interesting to see what's happening now that vaccinations are becoming more available. So basically, my understanding was their findings held true, until about December. And now we're, you know, we're sort of in a new environment. And so it'll be interesting to I think they're making a longitudinal study. So it'll be interesting to see how those students are doing now or a little further, further in the future.

Venkat Raman  21:43  

So what are some other topics that that you thought were interesting or relevant, that might be worth talking about, that you did that you cover?

Sujata  21:54  

So I feel like maybe is very much pre COVID and post COVID. Start with the present, I guess, actually even more than COVID. So I have covered sort of, the behavioral side of COVID, pretty directly. You know, for instance, I wrote a story, it was just a q&a with one researcher, which often works well in this beat, because there's so much so much noise, you know, everyone's studying. So this was a risk perception researchers with a lot of people studying risk, but so she happened to be really focusing on, on how people experience risk differently if they're angry or fearful.

And it was, it was pretty fascinating, actually. So it sort of helped explain a lot of the partisan divides that we've seen, like, if you're angry, you tend to minimize risk. And if you're obviously a broad brushstroke, but if you're fearful, then you tend to see more risk. And so some of that was starting to play out. So that was one of the behaviors like very straight behavior stories I wrote, I also wrote one about the disproportionate impact of COVID on black Americans.

But then, I sort of pivoted a lot of my work in the summer was writing about the the civil rights protests, which are, you know, sort of COVID adjacent, I”d say. Um, but trying to find if we could, a lot of times the struggle, and maybe as you can find a lot of human stories. Yeah, but finding the science to explain those human stories can be more challenging. So a lot of the summer was spent trying to look at the science of protests, we got really lucky.

And this guy got with this man named Omar Wasco got just a ton of coverage because he happened to rather serendipitously publish an article on political dissent. That came out just like right as everything was happening, and so we did a q&a with him. I wrote a piece on like school equity, which really brought together some of these issues in both in terms of COVID and, and schools closing down and like, long standing inequities within the black community, you know, between black and white students. And, of course, everyone else. Um, that's kind of what I've been doing.

Like, right now, I'm actually trying to go back to writing more about some of the behavioral science stuff, and I have a piece in the queue on how we communicate about vaccines for instance. Um, and before COVID hard to even remember a time before Covid, I, um I think I was focused, and I continue to be very focused on sociology, because when I started researching what social science be entailed, um, which I feel like we all sort of understand it vaguely what the social sciences are but like, really drilling down into it and just being like, well, how am I going to cover this enormous space?

I mean, here's the field that covers anthropology, psychology. judgment and decision making, um, you know, sociology of course, you can even go into like bioethics or medical ethics. And so it's just this really big space. And so it was like, how do I begin to chip away at it? And so I did this training at the Russell Sage foundation for social science journalists. It was fabulous. Um, and, and, and, you know, really came to understand that the roots of the field are in sociology, I have a feeling that's a controversial statement, I don't know for sure. So I focused a lot of my attention on understanding the methods used in sociological studies. You know, lots of natural experiment designs, like how you can't run a controlled experiments society. So how do you set up a study and so just really tried to learn that space.

And a couple stories that came out pre COVID that I've been really, I guess, one that I was really proud of was one on universal basic income, which is still relevant now. And I was able to focus it, there's so much research, there's so much chatter in any given space. And so this one, I was able to focus it because Alaska has had this long standing program called the permanent fund. And so they only there was like a limited body of research into this program. And that was really helpful. It's like, okay, I'll read all six studies. And write something coherent, this is often, like, what I am looking for is like, how can I take a really big topic, like right now I'm looking at the minimum wage debate? Yeah.

For instance, like, how can I take an enormous topic where there is just so much disagreement, even among the scientists, and whittle it down into something that makes sense, you know, no reader wants to be like, oh, when I just read this article that gave me no insight Whatsoever?

So, Yeah, so I do not have any I don't know how to cover the minimum wage debate. Yeah, but I'm looking. So

Venkat Raman  27:00  [Advice for Aspiring Journalists]

Obviously, it hasn't been a straight line to where you are today. But what would you tell, you know, aspiring journalists? I mean, uh, you know, I and I, and I say that with the, the high schoolers that, you know, work in the school newspaper, they can go to college, they're on the campus publications, there's a lot of that going on. What, sort of two parts to this?

One is, is there such a thing as a general, a generalist, right, in journalism? Or do you think science journalism and, you know, finance or economy related? So are you, are you better specialized? Or are you better of being a generalist? So those are two parts. So the first one is just journalism itself? And the second one, you can talk to the specialization if appropriate?

Sujata  27:57  

Sure, um, good question, actually, um, well, just so just in terms of going into journalism, I mean, you really have to anybody going in has to make sure they like it. I mean, I remember when I started at the fingerlakes times, there was, I knew immediately that I liked it, for whatever it's worth, like, I really enjoyed writing on deadline, I really enjoyed going out. In fact, I still miss daily, I have to say, cuz I enjoyed going out in the field a lot and getting to know the community. But there was another girl who started sort of around the same time as me maybe just a little bit afterward. And she, like, knew immediately, she did not like, it was very clear to her. And so luckily, she was very young, and she got out of there. And, and it was fine. But I mean, I think it is a field that you kind of kind of know pretty quickly if you like it which is nice. Um, so, you know, for high schoolers, obviously, do the things I didn't do, write for the high school paper. Learn how to make a I mean, I feel like there's all these programs now, like, you could probably like, convince your local NPR station to let you in there and figure out how to do a podcast like, you know, I don't have any of these skills. But it's not I mean, I don't know, you would know more than me, actually. It's, it seems manageable. I have a little training from doing the Oh, great. I forgot to even mention it. I did a one year fellowship through the night science journalism foundation at MIT.

Venkat Raman  29:23  

Yeah. Let’s talk about that at the end of this response. Will definitely want to talk about that. So go ahead. Sorry.

Sujata  29:29  

Yeah, that's fine. I said they gave us a little bit of training and radio, which was quite fun. Um, and then of course, in college, there's the depends where you go, at least at Cornell, we had a, we had the Cornell sun, which is a very successful newspaper. I think I went to one introductory meeting. That's gonna be a lot of work. And I didn't do it, which now I'm like, Oh, you idiot. Um, you know, sort of stand by the life experience only because I have to justify my crazy row. But living in Japan being a park ranger, all of that has shaped my, what I cover and how I look at issues. I will say it can be challenging, like, I'm sort of like a dark horse and journalists and science journalism rather than lots of people who get a masters or a PhD in science, or at least an undergrad in science, none of which I have. And then they go into this field, which I think is a really good idea if you want to do science journalism. So I feel always feel like a little bit like the oddball. Yeah, and the second part of your question was generalized versus specialized. Yeah, that's such a good question. I knew one of my really good friends and I, we've talked about it because he's like, I never want to specialize. I reason he has a PhD in like neuro science, but anyway, the reason I don't want to specialize is because I hated specializing so much in grad school. And so, you know, I want to cover everything. I'm kind of the opposite. And I wonder if it's because I don't have the science background. So it's a little like harder for me to like, get my head around certain issues. So like, you know, learning exactly how sociology works. And learning all the methods they're in has been extremely useful for me. And I like, sort of being the expert in a given area. So maybe some of it is temperament. I mean, I started off as a generalist, and now you know, but now, obviously, I'm a science news. So I will be a specialist for for this time. And then Should I ever leave? I would think that I would stick with my specialty because I find it it sort of narrows a very big world, which I need, but maybe other people don't want that. So there's no right answer. I was so struck when I made the switch to science journalism. And like I said, they don't have a science background. It was the first time that I had to write about things that I didn't just immediately understand, you know, like, because I covered you know, town, I covered the city of Rochester inner city crime, I covered municipal beats, I covered development and sort of these rough and tumble neighborhoods, I could immediately understand the issue, you know, it is a direct presentation. It's, it was going into science journalism, where you read a study. And to be honest, I initially I thought it was me, I thought, Oh, if I had a science background, I would immediately understand this study. And luckily, other people have since told me that like, actually, no, it's really, really common to read a study and not understand it terribly well. The first go around, or even the seventh go around, like, Oh, my God, it's not just me. You know, so you have to really rely on your sources in a way that feels a little uncomfortable sometimes I think, but then you also have to be very critical. And so it's finding that balance of like, okay, I've read this study several times to ask critical questions. But like, when it comes to the nitty gritty of how the methodology is working, I need them to walk me through the steps like it's a it's a different balancing act with a source than it really is with like, you know, covering the mayor or something. Yeah. Sort of like, by design, the more hostile Yeah, that was illuminating and nothing else.

Venkat Raman  33:44  

So before we kind of sign off here today, any any thoughts or either to aspiring journalists or anything that you want to share from your own experience now? Anything that I mean, so just about anything or any any interesting anecdotes, stories, vignettes?

Sujata  34:06  [The Realities of being Journalist]

Yeah, I guess one of the things that I have grappled with a lot is going into journalism. And I don't want this to sound super negative. So just put that out there. But like going into journalism, I really thought that my life experiences would matter on some level that those would be appreciated.

Um, they were not like I was fluent, almost fluent in Japanese when I came back and the Finger Lakes times shockingly, did not care. They just, it wasn't relevant to what they needed. And I have always been like kind of surprised by the devaluation of real life experience within our field and I do worry that it's become a place of a bit narrow a place you know, we hear about it a lot like close to the coastal bias and all that. So I don't know that I have a great solution to that.

I mean, I guess the thing that I always come back to is we had this writer that I respect a lot come to speak to my grad school class in 2010. And he's like, the great thing about journalism is it's a meritocracy. And I have to tell you, for the like, day to day decade of my freelance career, I held on to this notion.

And it's only recently that I, I really feel that that is not the right message to tell people, it needs to be a meritocracy, but we have not hit that goal. And it's really unfortunate. I could give lots of examples about how we have not hit that goal. But I think that like now, in my middle age, and you know, the role I play in journalism, one of the hardest things for me is realizing that I have to be, to some extent, like I both have to live with being a minority in a very white space. And I also have to be the change that we wish to see. And so I you know, I feel like I'm living in this complicated space where it's not super easy.

And then I have this beat, that's, you know, it's sort of meta, like, I'm supposed to be writing about it just to understand race and gender inequality. And it's, and you know, to be frank, no one really does. I mean, I mean, some people do a better job, like, I just read Isabel Wilkerson's cast, which is just brilliant. But, you know, sort of having to be the adult in the room with these issues, while also dealing with these issues, I think can be really challenging.

And the reason I bring it up is that the one thing I wish, you know, when I look back at my career is I wish I understood that it was not a meritocracy, so that the many rejections I got, I could put in the framework of like, this may be a bad story, quite possibly. But this also might be the fact that your name is Gupta. And that's the reality of the world we live in. And so I just, to me, it's been a bit it's given me a bit more courage and a bit more understanding of the nuance around how much work we need to do in this space. So that's my, my one big, my one big realization here.

Venkat Raman  37:17  

No, this is, thanks for sharing that. And, you know, the end of the day, figuring out how to make it work, which is a complicated business. You know, in any, any field, you have all sorts of challenges, not just all about merit, but other things as well. So that's the reality of life.

But you know, this, I just, first of all want to thank you for being candid, and be being generous with your stories and explanations and taking us, you know, along your journey, or just reliving parts of it anyway. And I hope it's useful to all those aspiring students out there who are looking at journalism.

And I hope I hope it's not a dying thing like you mentioned, the locals and the, you know, those things in some other  shape or form hopefully will come back. I’m, may be a dreamer, but see what happens,

Sujata  38:17  

But I think the pandemic has really shown how much we need it. I mean, I read a lot more local news about Burlington, Vermont than I ever did before. Because now it is directly relevant to my life. So hopefully, hopefully, we see some growth in local journalism.

Venkat Raman  38:32  

Yep. So thank you again Sujata. Thank you for your time, and I'm sure I'll talk to you again, but for now, take care. Be safe. And

Sujata  38:39

Alright, thank you so much.

Venkat Raman  38:40

Talk soon, bye bye


Venkat  38:48

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Sujata Gupta of Science News.

Sujata’s unusual road to journalism and science journalism is a story of grit and determination.

Her candour and honest insights should provide a realistic picture of what the life of a journalist is like.

Hope Sujata’s story helps you as you explore your career choices.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

US Colleges, College Admissions, University of Pittsburgh, Pitt, Study Abroad, India, China, Extracurricular, International Students, Model UN, Common Application, Common App, College Essays, Innovation, Gig Economy, Thesis, Capstone, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Business Development, Dubai, Singapore, Grab, Ride-Sharing.

Is College in US for you?