Original report website: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/07/rethinking-weight-loss-and-the-reasons-were-always-hungry/?_r=0
The article I read titled Rethinking Weight Loss and the Reasons We’re ‘Always Hungry’ published by the New York Times, is a piece interviewing the author of Always Hungry, David Ludwig, an obesity expert and professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health. Before reading it thoroughly, through scanning it I noticed that this report employs question and answer form. The title suggested me that this article might challenge the conventional thoughts of why we are always hungry and how to lose weight. As expected, the journalist used an analogy by Dr. Ludwig in the introductory paragraph to overturn the previous study on losing weight. Dr. Ludwig believes that calorie counting would not be the effective way to lose weight.
The beginning part attracts readers’ attention by it concise language use and an interesting analogy. In the following passage, after a brief description of what is this book about, the journalist started to interview with questions. I would like to quote some of the questions the journalist ask here:
- What is the basic message of your book?
Following question: But we’ve all been told that obesity is caused by eating too much. Is that not the case?
- That’s very different from the conventional wisdom that weight loss boils down to calories in, calories out.
- If it’s not overeating, then what is the underlying cause of obesity?
- How do you get your obese patients to lower their insulin?
From the questions above, we did not see too many complicated terms, but see clear and easily understanding questions regarding to this topic.
As a (preparatory) journalist, I assume conducting this interview requires much of professional science knowledge background. But in reality, it does not. Analyzing the questions this journalist came up with, there were two characteristics:
The first characteristic, this journalist might not know too much biological theories of obesity, but he has the conventional and common sense such as “obesity if caused by eating too much”, “decrease the calories in could result in weight loss” etc. However, these common senses are exactly what the readers know, and triggering readers’ curiosity that, what is wrong with this conventional sense? Many readers do not have a solid knowledge background on complicated biology terms, and they are seeking for simplified words and explanations to answer their question. Based on this fact, it is not a bad thing for a journalist who does not know too much about one specific science field, contrarily it might help him to find the questions that strikes a chord with his readers, figured our answers to these questions, and that is what readers want to gain from this report.
The second characteristic, though the journalist might not have a strong knowledge background on weight loss and obesity, but he have done research on Dr. Ludwig’s new book, and the question he prepares are hit home on the main topic of this book. Because of the research before interview, the questions the journalist asked are flexible according to Dr.Ludwig’s answers. When Dr. Ludwig answered that low fat and very high carbohydrate diet people kept increased the level of hormone insulin thus caused their obesity, the journalist asked in the following question, how to lower obesity patients’ insulin. This coherent and logical question flow helps readers to easily understand and captured the answers they are seeking for.
In general, this piece changed my first impression to be a science event covered journalist. The goal of us is to use the simplified words or terms to explain a complicated scientific phenomenon. Research and having a big picture is indeed, which will help to ask flexible questions during the interview.
February 2, 2016 at 6:54 pm
Nice dissection of a NYTimes health piece. It’s helpful to explore how stories are written, as much as why. Check your grammar here, some sentences could be clearer. Nice work!