For the 2019 IWMF/Malaria No More fellowship, Melody Schreiber focused a lot of her reporting on the scientific advances made towards malaria prevention and treatment around Rwanda.
Schreiber — a freelance journalist, book author, and mother of an adventurous toddler — has reported from every inhabited continent in the world, reporting on climate change, renewable energy, health, and gender, among other issues. Want to read some of her work? Start with this deep dive into an indigenous Scandinavian reindeer herding community in the midst of a mental health crisis.
How did you get started as a journalist? Tell me about your chosen medium.
I never set out to be a journalist; I didn’t know much about media growing up, and I had no idea you could get paid to write. A few of my friends after college were journalists and editors, so I wrote a blog post or two for them and then started freelancing from there. I’m mainly a words person — print and online — but I’d love to do more photography and podcasts.
Why did you decide to become a freelance reporter? How does it change the kind of work that you make?
After I left my staff job three years ago, I wanted to try different forms and beats and to work with different editors and publications. I didn’t realize I’d love it so much — being able to follow the stories I really care about wherever they take me. If it’s not a good fit for one outlet, I can usually find a home somewhere else, which isn’t usually the case with staff reporters. And the flexible work schedule is really great.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories? What beats are you most attracted to?
I love reporting on health and science. A good health story is really a science story that people can relate to. Everyone deals with health issues of some form or another, so they are always deeply personal, which I love. I also cover the Arctic, as ArcticToday’s Washington correspondent, and my favorite stories there deal with climate change, renewable energy, health, gender — issues that matter deeply to the communities I cover.
In terms of inspiration, when I find something that sparks my curiosity — my “wow, huh” response — I figure I’m on to something good.
What brought you to Rwanda? What interested you most about the country and the stories you’re working on?
I’ve wanted to report from Rwanda for years now, so I’m thrilled and very grateful for this opportunity. First of all, everyone talks about what a small country it is, and I come from one of the smallest states in the United States — Delaware, hi — so I felt some small-town solidarity. But truly, I was interested in how Rwanda has made progress, especially on health and gender issues, what its challenges are, and what other countries — including the United States — can learn.
You also work as an author. What books are you working on, and how do they relate to your reporting? What’s the dream book?
I love books! Right now, I’m working on an anthology of essays about premature birth. Next, I’d like to write about mental health and parenting, with a strong focus on science. For fun, I’m working on a young adult novel about figure skating. Writing fun fiction is one of the best ways to unwind after a day of reporting!
What’s your favorite part of working as a journalist outside of your country?
Ooh, that’s a good one. I love having my ideas and assumptions challenged. I think you’re always limited by the environment you grew up in, but the more you see, the more you realize how many different ways there are to live. As a journalist, I get to ask people about the most intimate moments of their lives, which is an honor and a responsibility —and also one of my greatest joys. How lucky are we to do this work?