November 14, 2013
/ by Laura Botham
It’s hard to look up into the night sky and not imagine exploring the depths of what lies beyond. Since the days of early mankind, we have strived to leave the surface of this planet for a better understanding of ourselves and this universe. We now live in an age where putting men on the moon and robots on Mars is a reality. Our best and brightest are taking scientific research and studies quite literally out of this world.
When it comes to translating the lingo into something that most people can read and understand, we look to science journalists like Dan Vergano, who joined National Geographic in September as senior science writer and editor. He is an award-winning writer hailing from USA Today where he had been writing daily science and technology features since 1999.
Vergano brings his experience as a policy analyst and aerospace engineer to his reporting, offering a broader perspective than a typical science writer. “I am unusual in coming from a systems engineering and policy analysis background. I see myself as a national news writer first, and science is the place where I have settled in to give people a broad policy perspective on truly important stuff.”
He described himself as a science generalist pointing out that he is not trying to become a niche expert on one topic.
Vergano has also been a researcher for PBS, correspondent for Medical Tribune and adjunct faculty at New York University. He holds the 2011 Gene Stuart Award from the Society for American Archaeology, and the 2006 David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Journalism. He was also the 2007-2008 Nieman Fellow at Harvard.
He gave due credit to his academic background in science policy, engineering, and his time working at the Pentagon as inspiration for his career in journalism. “While I was young I saw the helpful influence that accurately-reported news had on society, so I jumped into reporting,” he said.
At National Geographic, Vergano will have the opportunity to expand his coverage from energy and environment to include archaeology and space topics. “My writ is to look at the science behind the news and the news behind the science. So news, as ever, will drive a lot of my coverage.”
Although he won’t be continuing his climate change reporting, he is excited to be covering new topics, and has had his eye on NASA’s budget battle, the MAVEN launch and Comet ISON this year.
His addition to the team has been part of a bigger move by National Geographic this year to bring in renowned talent and leadership and bolster its digital content. The publication has been merging the online, print and video editorial teams this year in an effort to streamline operations, provide more comprehensive coverage and reach a larger audience across platforms. The publication has seen strong online growth with this move including onboarding of editorial hires like Vergano.
“National Geographic has made the transition that a lot of news organizations wish they could make; into a multi-faceted cultural outlet with many exciting offerings on a wide variety of platforms,” he said.
“It clearly has room to become an even larger part of what we call next media. They are growing into a place where great news coverage is just part of a complete package, which I think is the future of journalism.”
Vergano said he is committed to making the news team more impactful over both the long and short-term through his writing and editing. He also explained that the organization has a very large and tactile commitment to science and culture citing the fact that he now works in a building that houses “a very nice museum.”
Vergano believes that modern science understanding contributes to mankind’s continued development. “Science is the real story of what is happening in modern civilization today. Where what is new in thought, economics and culture, arises.” Pitching Tips
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