We continue our “Influencers Who Inspire” series with Jessica Bartlett, Health Care Reporter for Boston Business Journal. Jessica shares what types of stories she is on the lookout for, her favorite book and more.
Tell us a little bit about your role at BBJ?
I’m the health care reporter at the Boston Business Journal, which has me covering everything from hospitals to digital health companies to promising research to policy makers to insurers to startups to the occasional biotech and pharmaceutical story. We have digital newsletters we put out throughout the weekday and a weekly print product as well, so my time is split writing content for these products.
You are very passionate about writing and publishing. What is your favorite book or author?
My favorite book is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The writing is beautiful, and the character development is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It is a talent to write characters a reader can hate but still understand.
As a child, what did you envision yourself doing? Favorite subject in school?
As a child, I wanted to be on broadway! It was a career I had in my mind through high school, with decades of dance lessons and dozens of plays under my belt. But I wanted a job that would give me health insurance (irony, now that I cover health care), and the reality of always looking for work seemed overly stressful. I’ve always loved to write, and English was always my favorite subject in school. I decided journalism was the best way to do something artistic while still making a living, and came out of picking classes during orientation at the University of Vermont and declared to my mother that I’d be a journalist.
How did your education prepare you for your role today as a journalist?
My preparation for journalism truly happened outside the classroom — I worked for the school newspaper at the University of Vermont and learned how to write for a newspaper there. During an internship at the Patriot Ledger, I learned what professional newspaper writing should look like and be. I don’t have a degree in journalism (I majored in English and Studio Art with a focus in photography), but my education offered me a love of writing and reading, and a general curiosity about a variety of subjects — perhaps the most helpful part of my education. As a journalist, you never know what you’ll be covering, and curiosity and a desire to learn has always been my biggest asset.
As managing editor of your collegiate newspaper, what was the most interesting part of your role? Most challenging?
The most interesting part of being managing editor was being able to have a broader view of what we were doing as a paper, and all the people who worked within it. I read every article before it went to print, had meetings with editors to come up with ways they could better manage their writing staff — it afforded me a great view of a paper’s entire operations, and allowed me to have a more meaningful impact. Most challenging was perhaps running a newspaper filled with my peers, none of whom were paid to be there. But I learned a lot about leadership and people, that you have to manage personalities, hold people to high standards, but appreciate that they showed up.
As a reporter covering healthcare, what types of stories are you always on the look out for?
I’m looking for health stories that haven’t already been covered, and are things people will want to read — whether it’s why Medicaid insurers are losing millions, a breakthrough diabetes treatment or the new app that could change how people interact with their health. Because of our readership, I’m also looking for news that has a direct tie to Massachusetts and has a tie to business, even if it’s that the discovery could one day lead to an industry partnership or drug.
Do you feel PR folks are helpful and if so, in what way?
A helpful PR person is like a waiter, in that he or she is friendly, brings me what I ask for in a timely manner, recommends things I might truly like and is cognizant of my time. An unhelpful PR person is like a bouncer, in that he or she stands between me and what I’m looking for, bars me access to exciting things, and makes me jump through lengthy and exhausting hoops to gain entry. I have many valuable relationships with PR people that I talk to frequently, I also receive many pitches from others who seem to be pushing me content from a client, rather than thinking through news I might be interested in receiving. It truly is a mix.
What is next for you for the remainder of 2015?
The Boston Business Journal has some exciting events to look forward to, including our 40 Under 40 event and Power 50. I’m also working on a number of exciting stories that I’m eager to share with readers. On a more personal note, I’m getting married in September!