Melissa Hobson, Science Writer (Episode 13) | Melissa just wants to write stories about cool fish
“Actually I celebrate when I get a declined pitch, which sounds really weird, right? If they look at your email and they see that you’re someone who’s not worth nurturing a relationship with, they’re just not going to respond. So actually, when you do get a response and a polite no, it kind of shows you actually that the editor feels like there’s maybe something there.”
This week Sarah’s guest on the Research Adjacent podcast is science writer Melissa Hobson. Melissa is a freelance journalist specialising in marine science and conservation who has written for publications like The Guardian and National Geographic. Topics range from phantom jellyfish and giant stingrays to kelp restoration and she’s always on the lookout for the next big story.
Interestingly Melissa is not a scientist – she began her career in PR and then initially started as a travel writer. Learning to scuba dive was a turning point for Melissa. After seeing sharks and turtles in the wild she was hooked and gradually shifted her work to focus on writing and working with organisations seeking to protect the oceans.
“I genuinely thought that a comms person couldn’t get into marine conservation without retraining to be a biologist. So I spoke to a shark scientist for advice and he was like, are you kidding? We have scientists, we desperately need communications people.”
It’s taken Melissa a long time – six years – to build up her writing portfolio and develop the all-important relationships with editors. Her advice to aspiring writers is to create a portfolio, expect a lot of rejections and really get to know the publications you want to write for.
What keeps Melissa going through the inevitable rejections is the potential impact of what she does. Reflecting on her recent Guardian article she said;
“It’s about a guy that’s doing some grassroots kelp restoration work down in West Sussex. And he has done it all off his own back. He had a little Crowdfunder that had raised about £3,000 or £4,000. I checked this morning and he’s on about £13,000. Since yesterday the donations just started flying in. And I think that’s what I love about comms. The science and the conservation work is so important, but it’s absolutely vital to communicate it with the public and decision makers so that you can actually have a bigger impact and get support as well.”
Find out more
- Visit Melissa’s website or connect with her on LinkedIn
- Examples of Melissa’s published work and ocean writing
- Read some of Melissa’s writing here
- The NHS worker singlehandedly rewilding kelp forests in Sussex | Rewilding | The Guardian
- Extremely rare phantom jellyfish caught on camera (Nationalgeographic.com)
- A wildlife first: World’s biggest ocean stingray tagged in the wild (Nationalgeographic.com)
- Hibernating bears could hold a clue to treating diabetes | National Geographic
Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay
How was it for you…?
I would genuinely appreciate feedback about the podcast. Suggestions for future guests are always welcome too. Drop me an email or message me on Twitter.
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