top of page
Photo information:

"When Will I Ever Feel Like I Rightfully Belong?"


We asked a number of AAAS Mass Media Fellows (AAASMMF) to reflect on what they have learned, how they have changed, and why it matters. The journal below by Vanessa Vieites, who is placed at The Conversation US, has been lightly edited. Read our other journals by fellow AAASMMFs Krishna Sharma and Haley Dunleavy.


June 7

Today was my first official day as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow. I was really nervous, but everyone was so nice and welcoming. The person who supervises the interns and coordinates their schedules was really friendly and seems approachable and easy to talk to. I think she’ll make a great mentor this summer.

Today was also the first day of orientation week at The Conversation US (TCUS). That means I not only got to learn basic journalistic practices as part of my AAAS Mass Media Fellowship orientation last week, but I got to spend this week learning how TCUS’s unique model of journalism works. Today was just full of Zoom meetings. The other interns and I met with both our supervisor and the TCUS general manager about what to expect this summer, our goals, etc. We later had a meeting with the whole TCUS staff to learn about the site — its history, model, and how it’s funded.

On a boring note, I had some issues setting up my TCUS email account due to needing two-step verification. It’s ironic how I couldn’t set up the two-step verification process until I logged into my account, but couldn’t log in without having that two-step verification. It was annoying, but I got through it.

All in all, today was an exciting albeit nerve-wracking new start for me. It was an exhausting day with all the back-to-back Zoom meetings. Even though we ended early enough around 2:30 pm, I felt like I needed a nap right after.

The June 8 entry of Vanessa's journal. (Vanessa Vieites for The Xylom)

June 8

Today was the second day of orientation week at TCUS. We (the interns) set up our editor log-in and profiles on the TCUS website. That’s the interesting thing about my AAAS Mass Media Fellowship placement: I’m going to be trained as a writer and an editor.

We had more Zoom meetings today. The most exciting meeting I had was with my internship supervisor at the end of the afternoon. We talked about story ideas for my first piece. I’ll get to write as an expert on children’s spatial development. I’m still fleshing out the idea and figuring out how to turn it into a relevant, timely piece that fits in at TCUS. My supervisor suggested I read up on TCUS stories related to spatial skills to find out what TCUS has already covered on the topic. After meeting with my supervisor, I’m looking forward to this summer even more!

June 9

Today was full of meetings again. I started the day meeting with my supervisor, the TCUS general manager, and the TCUS chief innovation and development officer. The latter was really dynamic and seemed genuine about his passion for increasing the diversity of, not only sources we should interview as science writers but of expert authors who write for TCUS. I liked how he said we should seek expertise from a diversity of sources, and not just for them to speak on racial issues. After all, these sources have more knowledge to offer than just their experiences as minorities.

I also learned that The Conversation doesn’t receive funding from elite universities. The chief innovation and development officer I mention