In this week’s ’10 minutes with’ interview, The Telegraph’s Sarah Newey sits down with Newsworks to talk about some of the biggest health stories beyond Covid, how guides and scouts got her into journalism, her inspiring journalist godmother and more…
How did you get into journalism?
When I was 14 or 15 I wangled a stint on the press team at Norjam, an enormous, week-long guide and scout camp in Norfolk. It was not quite Fleet Street but we produced a daily paper on a shoestring budget. I spent all day running around, talking to people from across Europe and writing up their stories. I was instantly hooked.
Why does journalism matter?
Good journalism provides a window to the world, whether it’s the ins and outs of Westminster or an unfolding crisis in Afghanistan. Without it, we are blind. Sitting in London, it’s easy to take for granted how many people live in countries without a free press – you don’t have to look very far to see the ramifications on democracy and debate.
Best scoop (yours or someone else’s)?
Where do I begin?! It’s impossible not to reference all partygate scoops, given the current state of play.
But in terms of the global health desk here – my colleagues Will Brown and Zecharias Zelalem’s report on the alleged use of “chemical weapons” in the Tigray was haunting, while Paul Nuki on Exercise Cygnus – the pandemic dry run conducted by the government pre Covid – was fascinating.
Other bits that jump to mind are Nicola Smith’s investigation on the conditions facing Taiwan chipmakers during the pandemic, Ben Farmer’s tea with the Taliban, and Joe Wallen’s reporting of black fungus post-Covid in India.
What are you working on right now?
The pandemic isn’t over yet, but the Covid news agenda is starting to ease and I’m enjoying reconnecting with contacts on a range of other global health issues.
One of the best things about my job has always been the variety of topics, so it’s been refreshing to dig back into stories on women’s reproductive health or neglected tropical diseases like sleeping sickness – as well as keeping tabs on issues like coronavirus vaccine rollout, of course.
Of course, the mounting horrors from Ukraine will also be a huge focus for us in the coming weeks and months, especially the health fallout – be it infectious diseases or attacks on hospitals.
Career highlight so far?
Two stories spring to mind. The first is an interview with Dr Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian biochemist who believed so strongly about the promise of mRNA technology that she persevered with her research for decades, despite demotions and funding cuts. We should all be grateful she did – much of her research has been critical in Covid jabs. She’s an amazing character with a great sense of humour and I loved writing about her story.
Another highlight was travelling to Manuas, northern Brazil, in autumn 2020 to learn about why the city was so badly hit by Covid-19. Spending time with paramedics, grave diggers, clergy, survivors and badly affected indigenous communities was thought-provoking and gave me a real insight into the scars Covid can inflict on a society.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be curious. Everything is copy.
Who or what inspires you most?
There are so many people, I’m not sure where to start. Obviously, my colleagues and editors, but more broadly my godmother, Philippa Goodrich.
She’s a journalist with an infectious passion, tons of useful advice and a great eye for stories. I’m not sure my mum’s so pleased when Philippa sends me biographies of intrepid female international correspondents…
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why?
There are so many people I could list, but I think the following would be full of fantastic stories and anecdotes: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Lyse Doucet, Bill Bailey, Judi Dench, Billie Jean King, Awkwafina, Barack Obama and David Hockney.
How do you switch off from work?
With difficulty! (Mainly thanks to Twitter…) But spending time with friends and family, losing time in a good novel, or heading outside to exercise is a good start.
If I wasn’t a journalist, I would be…
I’m not sure. Growing up watching Grand Designs meant I once wanted to be an architect, but my physics skills are lacking.
Perhaps I’d work for an NGO, within the global health/development world but from a different perspective. Or as a teacher.
Gym or gin?
I feel like I should say the gym, but in reality there’s no question that a G&T wins every time.