Dawn Fallik is an assistant professor and director of journalism at the University of Delaware. She freelances for The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Neurology Today, Neurology Now, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
She began her reporting career as an education and night police reporter for The Record out of Troy, New York in 1992, and continued on as a reporter for The Associated Press in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Omaha. She worked as co-administrator for the National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting, based at the University of Missouri Journalism School in Columbia, Mo.
She spent 5 years as a Medical and Science Reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer where she spent a month in India covering the tsunami. She moved into full-time academia in 2007. Fallik attended The University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 1992. Fallik received the Readers Digest Fellowship in 1999 and a full academic fellowship at the University of Missouri, where she completed her masters in journalism in 1992. Fallik’s website http://sites.google.com/site/dfallik, showcases examples of her work and she can be contacted via email at dfallik(at)gmail.com.
Fallik was interviewed by Shannon Chrusciel, 21, who is majoring in Communication Studies, as well as obtaining a minor in Mass Communications at the University of Iowa.
Shannon Chursciel: Why did you become involved in journalism?
Dawn Fallik: After writing for the student paper, I interned at The Washington Post. I loved the newsroom. I loved asking questions and learning how to put together a story. It takes a special kind of crazy to be a reporter, and I fit that crazy.
SC: How do you define journalism today?
DF: It’s a search for news and answers, presented across a variety of publishing platforms. In some ways, journalism has gotten smaller, with hyperlocal coverage, and increasingly micro, with every move covered by Twitter. But we’ve lost a lot of the larger investigative picture.
SC: How has technology influenced or affected your career?
DF: My specialty is computer-assisted reporting, using federal, state and local databases to get information about companies, accidents and inspections. I use a variety of analysis programs. I also use Facebook and Twitter for crowdsourcing, rarely.
SC: How will technology affect the future of journalism?
DF: I can only see things getting faster and faster, but at the cost of accuracy.
SC: What one word would you use to describe the status of women in journalism today?
SC: What role(s) will women have in future journalism?
DF: I hope they will step forward to take online roles as web producers and continue to make strides into investigative reporting and administrative roles. But it’s still pretty much a white man’s club.
SC: From your experience, could you discuss the impact you feel blogging will have on journalism in the future?
DF: I have mixed feelings about blogging. I like the blogs about specific beats, where reporters and the community they cover have a back-and-forth conversation. I’m not such a fan of the me-me-me blogging. Maybe that’s because I don’t see me – a single 40 year old reporter with no kids – in the newspaper, ever. If someone in my situation is in a magazine, it’s in a story about how to get a man.
SC: What are your opinions on the pressures women face to leave the workforce in order to stay home with the family? Do you believe this is the reason that there are much fewer women at the top of the corporate ladder?
DF: I think it’s a big reason. The truth is, being a reporter is hard, hard work. It sucks up a lot of your time and your energy. Then again, I’m 40, and I don’t have a family and I’m tired. I’m definitely up for a battle, but I pick them more carefully.
SC: What about medical and scientific journalism first interested you?
DF: It’s my favorite beat. Readers love health stories and the doctors and nurses and technicians are so interesting to interview. They are (mostly) passionate about what they do and excited to talk.
SC: What influence, if any, do you feel your gender has on your reporting?
DF: Well, in my classes, I make sure students read stories by both male and female reporters and I make sure to invite female reporters to speak (about 90 percent of my students are women.) As far as my reporting goes, I do try and find a variety of people to comment on a story. It doesn’t always work – for example, I write a lot about neuroscience, and that’s a very male-oriented field.
SC: How did reporting on the tsunami in India compare with reporting in the United States? What did you learn most from that experience?
DF: The challenge with covering the tsunami is that it was 24/7. You wake up and you’re still in India. There’s no really escaping what you’re covering. I had an iPod and every night I would listen to a bunch of music to get a break from it. And the doctors I followed read every story as it came out. That made things a little uncomfortable sometimes.
SC: What story are you most proud of, and why?
DF: I feel like journalism is one of the few jobs where you can have a huge impact on people’s lives on a daily basis. Maybe a call you made helped get someone’s insurance straightened out. Maybe you wrote a series about a problem with a certain drug that got things changed. I loved being able to make a difference. It was like having a superpower.
SC: How do you view equality in journalism today?
DF: It’s a struggle. I’d like to see more women and minorities succeed. It doesn’t happen very often and I’m not sure why.
This is part of a series of profiles of JAWS members by University of Iowa students. For a complete listing, see this page.