Interview by Stefanie Phillips, RSJ ’18
Julia Belluz, RSJ ’07, is a senior health correspondent at Vox News in Washington, D.C..
What has your career path looked like since you graduated? How did you end up at Vox?
After Ryerson, I went to London to pursue a Master’s degree at the London School of Economics. The global financial crisis set in at that time, and journalism jobs were already scarce by the time I graduated. I was lucky to get an internship at the Times of London through an award at LSE, which was a great learning experience. After writing for a number of newspapers and magazines from London for a year after that, I returned to Canada in 2009 and started work as an entry-level reporter at Maclean’s. From there, I went down the rabbit hole of health reporting, and I’ve been focused on medicine and public health ever since. I’m now working at Vox.com as the senior health correspondent.
What did Ryerson j-school not teach you that your career has?
Journalism is something I think you can only get better at by doing, so it’s been great to get a lot of reporting experience in different countries and newsrooms, and to experiment with different formats of storytelling over the years. Unfortunately, writing only gets harder as you do it more.
Why does it get harder?
You push yourself to write more clearly, more elegantly, and there’s no end to how much you can improve.
You’ve carved a beat in the health sciences, what sparked your interest in health reporting?
I think the moral and ethical questions that are part of most conversations about health and science are fascinating. The stakes are also very high. We’re usually talking about life and death matters, issues that deeply affect people and how they live. I also simply find medical science fascinating. There are so many different areas to explore and learn about it, and share with your audience.
Congratulations on finishing the Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. How was the experience?
It’s important to not only grasp the science you’re reporting on but also appreciate the culture of science. The MIT fellowship was designed to be an immersion where journalists could learn more about science while studying alongside MIT researchers and scientists and vise versa. That experience furnished my reporting and gave me a deeper appreciation for how science works.
How did it furnish your reporting?
I learned about research methods and epidemiology, which helps me in my reporting every day. I learned more about areas of science I then wound up reporting on, like genomics. I met researchers who became sources. Overall, it was a great experience.
Why did you decided to complete a MSc? Would you encourage other BJ grads to pursue a Master’s degree in a field they want to cover?
Grad school certainly helps strengthen your analytical skills, but I don’t think it should be a prerequisite for any journalist. I know many brilliant journalists who barely finished their bachelor degrees, let alone spent time in grad school. On the other hand, if you want to be a reporter, and you know you want to specialize in a particular field, getting a solid education in that field may not be a bad idea.