Alumni Week focuses lens on news coverage of COVID


The COVID-19 pandemic has created a hunger for accurate science journalism, separating facts from misinformation. 

As part of this year’s Alumni Week celebration at UCSC, three alumni of UC Santa Cruz’s prestigious Science Communication Program who cover the pandemic will share what they have learned during a virtual University Forum, 5:30–7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19. 

The forum calls attention to a well-regarded program that has produced professional science writers since 1981. The program is one academic year long, focusing entirely on practical training through rigorous coursework and diverse internships.

It's the only graduate science writing program in the U.S. that requires a degree in science and experience in research, and it has produced many successful alumni, including the featured panelists. 

Julia Calderone ('14 SciCom),  Nicholas St. Fleur ('14 SciCom), and Science Communications Program Director Erika Check Hayden will take part in a discussion moderated by Nsikan Agpan ('14 SciCom), who was named in January 2021 as health and science editor at WNYC public radio in New York.

The forum is not to be missed, said Nichole Silva, director of strategic programs and audience development at UCSC.

“I see this forum as a look behind the curtain to learn what journalists go through to report on stories in the midst of a crisis," Silva said. "It’s also a great moment to celebrate the education these alums received here at UC Santa Cruz. We will be joined by three award-winning alumni of our Science Communication Program who are all working in some of the most respected news organizations around.”

Calderone, a staff editor at the New York Times, was among a large team of reporters and editors honored on June 11 with the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service

The award, regarded as the most prestigious of the annual Pulitzer Prizes in journalism, recognized a deep package of 15 stories and data-analysis displays about the coronavirus pandemic assembled in 2020 by the New York Times.

The Pulitzer Prize Board cited the team for its "courageous, prescient and sweeping coverage of the coronavirus pandemic that exposed racial and economic inequities, government failures in the U.S. and beyond, and filled a data vacuum that helped local governments, healthcare providers, businesses and individuals to be better prepared and protected."

Nicholas St. Fleur received the 2021 Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, the top annual prize in the U.S. for science journalists age 30 or younger.

He has been praised for his unique coverage of the COVID crisis. In fall 2020, he reported a story about two presidents of historically Black colleges in New Orleans who were subject to a “huge backlash” after suggesting to members of their communities that they enroll in a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. 

“While surprising to some, the incident was emblematic of a legacy of medical mistrust in the Black community borne from a troubling history of racism and inequity in medicine,” St. Fleur wrote. 

He also reported a story called “The exhaustion epidemic: Examining the Covid-19 burnout crisis in health care.”

Register here for this free event.