I am a full-time journalist who writes articles about studies published in medical journals or presented at medical conferences.
In the past, I have been a general assignment reporter for several Philadelphia newspapers and have written everything from crime stories about a gentleman who was convicted of running a Russian prostitution ring out of a publishing company to human interest pieces about a pipe club losing their clubhouse and taking refuge in a private journalist bar in Philadelphia that still allows smoking indoors.
Right now, I am just starting a new job as a staff writer for a reproductive endocrinology clinic in Delaware (think in vitro fertilization) where I will be telling the stories of patients through not just writing, but radio broadcasts, video and social media.
What do your first drafts typically look like?
As with fiction, any good news article is well-researched. There is a lot going into understanding a subject not just so you can wrap your head around a certain topic. but so you can ask targeted and intelligent questions of your sources.
With that said, my first drafts are usually a mess. I transcribe my interviews, so if I am writing a 3500 word cover story on hip replacements, for example, I could have as many as six different multi-page interviews laying on my desk on top of journal articles as background and references on a given topic.
What is your revision process?
I write my first drafts straight through, then revise. At that point, it’s unbalanced – do I have enough experts or references on a topic? Does the science match what my sources have said? Do I need to go back and ask follow up questions? All this is taken care of before an editor even sees my story.
I’m lucky in that I have always had excellent editors behind me and my work. To be a great editor, you must first be a great writer and communicator. My revisions are usually based around suggestions my editors make, and through our relationship I will learn what aspects of my writing need work.
Where do you like to write? What tools do you use?
I like to write anywhere quiet, but in a pinch I will use headphones and music to block environmental sound out. One thing I can’t compromise on is having a desk and a hard keyboard. Try as I might, I can’t write freehand or on a tablet because my ideas are usually so scatterbrained. Everyone has a different method for turning out copy, and I am a visual learner. I need the freedom to be able to delete or move ideas around in an article on the fly to see its place in a piece.
The tools I use to get my stories done are my audio recorder, laptop, Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, my research materials and interviews, my mp3 player, and a good pair of headphones.
Who is your favorite author and/or what is your favorite book, and why?
It’s hard to pick a favorite! I suppose Hunter S. Thompson is a great inspiration to me, and in terms of fiction I like off-the-wall guys like Vonnegut and Bukowski. Right now I am reading a few books: 1Q84 by Murakami and The Wizard-Knight series by Gene Wolfe.
I tend to read anything because it’s hard to say where inspiration will come from. Specifically, I like to read books in styles that are completely different from my own so I will gain a new perspective to round out my own style.
What was the first piece you ever wrote, and what made you decide to start it?
The first journalism piece I ever wrote was for Metro, one of Philadelphia’s daily newspapers. It was an easy tech story on the iPhone 4 and it wracked my nerves pretty bad just finding the courage to pick up the phone and talk to a source on the subject.
I wrote the story because I was comfortable with the subject and knew I had to focus on developing my interview and research skills before I moved onto tougher assignments.
Where can we read more of your work?
I let my hosting lapse on my personal site (jeffcraven.org) because I’m currently redoing it from scratch to include some of my newer multimedia projects. For now, you can read some of my articles on orthopedics at Healio.com/Orthopedics. My work at Reproductive Associates of Delaware (http://ivf-de.org/) is not yet live yet but should start to trickle in during the rest of 2014.