Internship at The Mighty taught me about the power of the patient’s voice

Elizabeth Cassidy at The Mighty’s headquarters in Burbank, California. Photo by Juliette Virzi.

In September 2017, I became the news intern for The Mighty, a company that covers disease, disability and mental health. The Mighty not only covers health-related news but is also a platform for people to share their lived experience with health conditions. Before I was an intern, I wrote about my own experiences with mental illness for the site, but I knew I wanted to work on the editorial team. I knew because The Mighty is way more than a media company, it’s a community comprised of smaller communities of people who are living with similar health experiences. It’s a bit like a safe haven for people to gather and feel comforted and understood. I feel qualified to say this because I’ve heard the feedback from people, and I also felt this way when The Mighty was a large part of my support in my own health struggles.

As an intern, I wrote a lot about mental health, disability and autism. I also started to write more about the government and policy changes, but it wasn’t just about health policy changes or new government appointments. It was geared toward how it would affect people with chronic illnesses, people with disabilities, and others. A lot of the times, national coverage is over-arching because the outlet’s audience is wide, so reporters can’t write a story specific to one demographic. But at The Mighty, our audience is specifically people who could and probably will be affected the most by changes. I feel that is quite unique to The Mighty. We’re looking out for our readers and want to make sure they have the information they need.

If there’s one thing science journalists could learn from The Mighty is that the patient’s voice is strong and has a lot of valuable input. Reporting on a study is fine. But if the study has real implications, talk to people who could be affected by it. Journalists are used to using patients for the “human” element to lead into a piece, but they’re worth more than a hook into a story. If you’re writing about a certain health condition, don’t just write it for the general public or local audience if that’s your typical audience, consider writing for the people who have the condition and how your piece will affect them.

Health is a large journalism beat, and I’m glad I’ve found a niche in it that I enjoy and am passionate about. I write for the people in the health communities, and that means a lot to me as someone in a few of those communities.

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