Carolyn Crist headshot

Alum Carolyn Crist shares real-world freelance experience as a UGA journalism instructor

Carolyn Crist graduated from the HMJ program in Spring 2014. She balances her career as both a freelance journalist and journalism instructor at UGA.

The following is an edited transcript. 

Can you tell me about what you do now for work? How did you get there?

I am currently a freelance journalist working in Athens. I am primarily focused on health, science and medical stories. The past 18 months have been about the COVID-19 pandemic. I do daily stories for WebMD. I have written for other outlets like Reuters, the News Wire Service, AARP, Parade, and others. 

Before the pandemic, I wrote on science and medical stories, but also business and technology. I wrote for Forbes and Entrepreneur. 

I used to work for newspapers before going freelance about seven years ago. 

As a freelancer, do you usually get to choose your own stories or do you have stories assigned to you by editors? 

Both. For some editors, I pitch story ideas. For long standing editors like WebMD and Reuters, they assign me assignments. It is a nice mix. I like having freedom to pitch ideas and also having the stability of working with certain publications long-term. 

Do you have topics within the health and medical beat that you focus on besides COVID? 

I am interested in auto-immune and blood diseases like leukemia. My life has been impacted by blood diseases and family members being diagnosed with cancer. Health impacts everything in your life from fitness to severe disease like COVID-19 and cancer. 

Can you tell me about the course you teach at UGA?

I teach the undergrad class, Reporting and Writing Across Platforms. It is Journalism 3190. I have taught the class a few times before. I teach about the basics of journalism across platforms, whether that is newspaper, magazines, online, broadcast, or social media. It creates a nice foundation for how to report on stories, which includes basic news stories and profiles. 

Do you have a preference for teaching or working in the field? 

I enjoy the hand-on aspects of both teaching and reporting in the field. Nothing beats getting experience in journalism by going out and talking to people, talking to them about their research, and writing stories based on the hands-on experience that you gain. 

How did the Health and Medical Journalism program help you get to where you are today?

My undergraduate degree was in the newspapers major. I got trained to be a reporter. I covered government, life-style, business… anything you can think of. I decided to go back to grad school to get a focus in science and medicine reporting. It strengthened my skills in doing features and investigative work. It helped me with how to understand a study and know more about sample sizes and statistics. 

Do you have any advice for the current HMJ students? 

I recommend gaining hands-on, real world experience. You have the opportunity to publish stories with local, state, and regional to national publications. Take advantage of the resources available to you in the HMJ program, like working with Sabriya Rice, other Grady professors, and other UGA professors in your cognate classes. There are so many experts here at UGA, so there are many resources here that can help students.