This summer, Capital Science Communicators is welcoming its first-ever student journalist assistant.
James Eldred will be reporting on local science communications events, writing personality profiles of local science communicators, and enhancing CapSciComm community resources, including compiling a directory of public information officers working locally in STEM fields. He filed his first story for CapSciComm interviewing science writer Brooke Borel during her book tour visit to UC Davis.
Eldred, 21, hails from Liberty Hill, Texas, a “booming, thriving town of less than 800 people.” Currently majoring in Convergence Journalism at Abilene Christian University, Eldred is spending his first significant time in Northern California this summer.
As with many first time visitors to the Sacramento region, Eldred is surprised at how different elements remind him of other places he has traveled to.
“The Sierras look like Canada,” Eldred muses, although his next comparison was surprising.
“Midtown looks like Germany. Like Leipzig,” he says, referring to the Saxony city. “The way the streets are laid out. The very distinct grids. The closeness of the houses and the greenery.”
The Texas native says his varied diet of knowledge and interests—and a fondness for investigation and detective novels—drew him to exploring a journalism career. He is currently a staff writer for The Optimist, the campus newspaper of Abilene Christian University.
“I am insatiably curious. I love to learn. I just have to know what’s going on,” Eldred says, but adding that he “fell in love with how you can express yourself on paper.”
Science journalism will be a new beat for Eldred, although his inquisitiveness has readied him for this new territory.
“I’ve always wanted to know how things work,” he says. “Science, I believe, is infinitely learnable…there’s always a new trade you can explore. I think part of that is the pervasive of science in our everyday life, whether we know it or not. We use technology for everything—our phone uses technology, our shirts are made with technology, our food is made with technology. And not a lot of people think about that.”
Eldred feels it is important that society knows where technology comes from, and how it is driven by science.
“If you live on the planet, I think you should try to learn as much as possible about the physical process of the world around you,” Eldred explains. “If you’re uninformed, then that lack of that information at the very least is inconvenient. And at the worst, it could lead to a miscalculation that could have an incredible cost.”
“I also think that science helps us understand the consequences of your actions,” Eldred adds. “Sometimes I feel like this is lacking in the world.”
During his summer internship experience with CapSciComm, Eldred hopes to broaden his professional skills and training.
“At The Optimist, I interview sources a lot, but it’s mostly in-house,” he says. “There’s not a lot of real field work. So I feel it’s not as realistic as being dropped in a community.”
Eldred hopes to hear advice from veteran writers on the craft of journalism and working with news sources, and becoming more comfortable with professional networking.
“I want to see how a communication network interacts with a living, breathing city, with a culture brand new to me,” Eldred says. “I’m excited to be here, and to learn the culture, and a little more context for my trade.”
Eldred is the nephew of geologist Amy Wagner of Sacramento State. His internship is being supervised by CapSciComm member Ben Young Landis.
—Ben Young Landis