Welcome to Journalist Spotlight, a Q&A series with a journalist and ProfNet user. This installment belongs to Amir Khan, a health and wellness reporter with U.S. News & World Report.
At U.S. News & World Report, Amir Khan covers a variety of health topics, including health technology, diet and nutrition and fitness, all with an eye toward helping consumers make the best possible decisions about their health.
A native New Yorker, Khan grew up in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn. After attending Stony Brook University, he wrote for the International Business Times and Everyday Health prior to U.S. News & World Report.
Besides writing about health and wellness, Khan’s an avid homebrewer, a Mets and Jets fan, and fantasy football nut.
Have you always wanted to be a journalist or did you start out in another field?
I definitely didn’t know that I wanted to do journalism. I went to Stony Brook University not knowing what I wanted to do and took an entry-level journalism class because it fulfilled a requirement. I enjoyed it and decided to take another, and everything kind of fell into place from there. I can’t imagine being in a different field now though.
Where was your first “real” job in journalism?
My first job out of college was writing for the International Business Times, but I consider my first real journalism job to be at Everyday Health, where I worked last year before moving over to U.S. News and World Report. That job taught me a great deal about covering health, reading studies, and identifying trends.
How did you become a health and wellness reporter? Has that particular genre been your primary focus or were you thrown into it?
I’ve always loved health and science journalism. The New York Times’ science section was regular reading for me growing up – so when I got into journalism, it just made sense that this would be my area of coverage.
My first internship was at a magazine called BioTechniques, where I did high-level science writing. After that, I interned and eventually freelanced for Popular Mechanics where I covered interesting studies and new technology. From there everything kind of rolled along to bring me where I am today.
What type of stories do you enjoy covering the most?
Health technology stories are definitely my favorite – whether it’s a new kind of fitness tracker, a new treatment, or a cool gadget. I’ve always been a bit of a geek, so covering this came pretty naturally to me. I’ve had a great opportunity to write about new technologies at U.S. News and I’m really grateful for that.
Do you make suggestions as to what stories you cover or are they assigned to you?
It’s both! One thing I love about working for U.S. News is that my editor Angie lets me cover what interests me – you always write better when you’re genuinely interested in the topic at hand. I’ll pitch her stories, she’ll recommend some to me, and we figure out what we should do. It’s a real team effort to decide coverage.
What has been your most memorable or most difficult assignment?
One of my most memorable stories actually came just a few weeks ago. I was working on a story about healthy snacks for football Sunday, and I managed to snag an interview with the Food Network chef Robert Irvine. It was kind of surreal to me, because I’m a huge fan of his shows.
Do you use social media as part of your job?
I do! Besides promoting my stories on my own personal Twitter and Facebook account, I also help manage the U.S. News social media accounts, where I promote all of our stories, blog posts, and Twitter chats.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d probably be a chef. Before going to Stony Brook, I seriously considered going to culinary school. I still love to cook though – my fiancée and I cook dinner together just about every night, and it’s one of my favorite hobbies.
How has the industry changed from when you began your career?
The biggest shift has been in how writers deal with readers. When newspapers and other outlets first moved online, it was very print-on-web. Now, the pages are more dynamic, and many have interactive charts, graphs etc.
More than that though, I think journalists have finally learned that engaging with your readers is a great way to build your brand and keep them coming back to you. It’s no longer a one-way conversation. My goal as a journalist is to be the type of person people seek out to see my take on the latest health news.
Do you have advice for someone just starting out as a journalist?
Do as many internships as you can. I did three throughout my college career, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Media outlets are looking for experience, they don’t want someone they have to train. Internships are the best way to make contacts in the industry, get clips, and land a job out of college.
Evelyn Tipacti is a community relations specialist at ProfNet, a service that connects journalists with expert sources. She is a former broadcast journalist with years of experience behind the television camera and radio mic.
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