Sophie Scott is an award-winning journalist, presenter, author and public speaker. She is currently the national medical reporter for ABC TV and is one of Australia’s most experienced health reporters. Sophie is the author of Roadtesting Happiness: How to be happy (no matter what) (ABC Books) and Live a Longer Life: The scientific secrets to health and wellbeing at any age (Harper Collins).
How did you get your ‘big break’ as a health writer?
When I was working for ABC in Tasmania, I started covering a lot of science news. I then moved from the science side into the health side. It was primarily because I had a personal interest, so it was a way of marrying my personal and professional interests.
What’s your best piece of advice for those who are considering a career in health journalism or who are just starting out?
One of the most important things is to look at the credentials of the sources that you use or the experts that you use, so to find highly regarded, well trusted experts in different fields of medicine to help you analyse scientific research. A lot of the research is very complicated and not designed to be read by a lay audience, so you need those experts to tell you how important or significant a piece of research is.
What’s the most challenging topic you’ve ever had to cover?
Challenging topis are always issues that are quite controversial, for example anything to do with vaccinations. With these topics, someone will always disagree and complain, and it’s a battle you can’t win. With this, you need to be even more careful and cautious with every word that you write so there’s no reason for any legitimate criticism.
What’s the hardest thing about being a health reporter?
Probably just managing the amount of research and the number of stories pitched, and also separating out the real breakthroughs from the ones with a strong commercial interest. Also determining whether an issue is a small improvement or a major development and how important it is in the scheme of things. how important an issue is ew news, a small improvement or some major development – how important in the scheme of things
How has health journalism changed during the course of your career?
I think one thing that’s really changed is that everything is out there instantly. Previously I might have read a study and followed up on it the next day, but now you need to follow up the day it is released or you miss out – you have less control. With daily news, you only have one chance as it will be old news by tomorrow.
There are a few things I love most. One is that you’re constantly learning new information and new things about humans and how we operate – but also, you get to meet really inspiring doctors and patients. You get to tell positive news when a lot of journalism is negative, and it’s a good feeling to be able to spread the good news.