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Health

A healthy career: Nancy Shute and her experiences as a health journalist

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“Take Care” is dedicated to providing WRVO’s listeners with reliable and useful information regarding health and wellness issues.  Although most of our interviews involve specialists in certain areas of medicine, this time we wanted to interview someone on the other side of health news.

This week on “Take Care,” Nancy Shute talks about her experiences as a health journalist and what she has learned along the way.  Shute is co-host of “Shots,” NPR’s health and medical blog.  She also writes for Scientific American, National Geographic, and U.S. News and World Report.

Although Shute began her career in journalism covering politics, she prefers the dynamic nature of health topics.

“We’re always getting bits and pieces of new information.”

Since “Shots” is a blog, Shute and her staff are able to include many different forms of information in their stories.  Graphs, data, videos, and links to related websites can be found on the blog.

“With online journalism, we have a lot more freedom and flexibility,” Shute says.

Shute likes to cover a wide variety of topics, from the Ebola outbreak in Africa to an app that can measure an individual’s risk for sunburn.

Shute says running “Shots” provides her with both opportunities and challenges.

“The really neat thing about doing online journalism is we can interact with our readers.”

Audience members often provide Shute with ideas and information for current stories or potential stories.  Shute says she tries to respect her audience’s culture and feelings, but critical or negative feedback is just as common as positive responses.   

“Shots” recently ran a story about a family’s experience caring for a child with cerebral palsy.  The picture that they used of the father carrying his son in a diaper was a controversial one, and many audience members reacted negatively to the post. 

After viewing the comments, Shute replied by explaining the reasoning behind the selection of the photo.  Her reply received supportive and constructive comments.

“I learned so much.  It really opened my mind to what that experience is like and I think it did for many readers too.”

Shute says that health and medicine is the second most researched topic on the internet behind sports.  Considering the popularity of the topic and her blog, you can probably expect her to be in the business for many years to come.

“I’ve been doing health and medicine journalism for years now and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.”