Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Engineer Journalist

The Professional Life

The title sounds incongruous; two words that do not usually go together, yet they do when describing the professions I have chosen. First engineer, then journalist. Both appeal to me; both require certain practical and analytical skills and certain modes of thought, i.e., rational and ethical, which come easily to me. Both require problem solving abilities or skills; both require the respect for facts, for knowledge and for truth—all necessary in a free and democratic society.

This is why I have decided to combine my two career paths into one—the Engineer Journalist. Admittedly, such is an uncommon melding of two distinct professions, which does increase my uncertainty as to the viability of the whole new enterprise—pioneers can hardly ever be certain of the rightness of their actions. As a matter of clarification, this is not the same as the Journalist Engineer, or Data Journalist, whose job it is to use data sets to explain a story and make graphs, such as is explained and found [here].

While the result provides the reader information, this seems more engineer than journalist, more data than prose, which no doubt has its purpose. Engineering developed my thinking, and journalism my writing—both are important, yet I primarily see myself as a writer/journalist who was first trained as an engineer, and recognize the value of such training, the value of receiving a technical education 10 years before deciding to enter journalism school, where my interviewing, editing and writing skills were nurtured, advanced and honed. Such a distinction might seem like hair-splitting, but it is a distinction worth noting.

I see my role as using the engineering skills I have acquired to understand the implications and benefits of technology, and to write about such in a clear way, and to use words to explain to the reader in a humane way, free of arcane and specialist language; data sets and graphs are one way to communicate such ideas, but some people are turned off by graphs, and still look to words to tell a story.

While facts are facts, and without them we are lost, they require both analysis and interpretation. This is where journalism comes in, providing the who, what, where, when and why (5 Ws) and how to tell a persuasive and powerful story. This is still important today, as is an understanding and respect for facts, knowledge and truth, which more often than not comes in the form of scientific facts. Science today cannot and should not be denied its proper place.

Such would not be the case, I suggest, if people understood Science’s (and also its cousin, Technology’s) important contributions to the betterment of humanity, especially when such is encased in a moral and ethical framework. Science generally has a good story to tell.

This is where someone like me can help, who still sees the value and necessity of of words, even if these are employed in the form of long prose. So, it would seem that the joining of my chosen career paths remains unusual, even distinct; it is true that I have not yet met someone like me.

Yet, as western civilization moves further into the technological realm and its reliance on it becomes greater, and the need for clear communication becomes all the more necessary, so it will be that persons like me will not be unusual. We will become necessary and might become popular.

I would like to hear what others, notably engineers or journalists, think about the conflation of two old and distinguished professions into a new one. If so inclined, drop me a line.

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