Alumna pairs passions for writing, science at Weather Channel website
11:29 a.m., Jan. 28, 2014--Five years since graduating from the University of Delaware, Laura Dattaro is right where she belongs. Not playing the trumpet professionally, as she assumed she would be entering her freshman year of college, but writing for The Weather Channel at weather.com, immersed in the two things she loves most: writing and science.
Dattaro never thought she would be a journalist. Majoring in English and music and playing for the UD Marching Band, the Honors Program student had ambitions to make music her main career focus. That was until a fellow band member and city news desk editor at The Review, UD’s student run newspaper, gave her a story to work on.
Double Del doctors
“I fell in love with it,” she said.
With a newly found passion for reporting, she set out to complete a focus of studies in journalism and continued her involvement at The Review. For three years she put her all into the newspaper, even working as editor-in-chief her senior year.
“It was definitely what got me my internships and definitely what got me my first job. It was critical that I worked at The Review. I basically lived there,” Dattaro said.
Dattaro also put her journalistic skills to use through several internships. During the summer of 2008 she was able to land a position with National Geographic in New York City, fact checking, writing, and copy editing for their online and print magazine, The Green Guide.
The summer of her graduation in 2009, Dattaro was nominated and selected as an intern for the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative news journal located in Washington, D.C.
“I was put on a project all summer, investigating how sexual assault cases are handled on college campuses,” Dattaro said, “so I spent three months reading over a 1,000 pages of complaints filed to the Office for Civil Rights regarding sexual abuse cases, which was really intense and sometimes really upsetting,” but nonetheless rewarding.
In the months that followed her internship in Washington, Dattaro found herself abroad, traveling through Ireland. Living in Galway City and enjoying the scenic land, she took those opportune months to relax and decompress from the stressors of college and work. It was there that she began reading New Scientist, a weekly print and online magazine devoted to science and technology.
In 2010, she landed a job at Baltimore's City Paper where she became the associate editor for a little over a year. Living in a city where science was a predominant culture and with New Scientist in mind, it wasn’t long before Dattaro found her writing niche.
“When I came back from Ireland I couldn’t stop thinking about New Scientist. I was reading the science news all the time. So I started pitching science papers to City Paper. Baltimore was a really interesting place to do science reporting and I just decided that was something that I really wanted to do,” she said.
Discovering a program at Columbia University, Dattaro embarked to New York City once again, enrolling in a 10-month-long master of science and health journalism program and graduating in May 2013. It was just the right move she needed to make to propel her further into the science journalism world.
While at a Columbia career fair, Dattaro had the opportunity to meet with a representative from The Weather Channel. Determined to acquire a position there, she maintained contact with them and after several months she officially assumed the role of assistant science editor for weather.com.
Because The Weather Channel expanded the website’s content, Dattaro covers a wide range of topics. “I can cover everything from slide shows of 10 cool facts about the sun, to longer stories that require multiple interviews, and everything in between. So it’s different every day,” she said.
Although Dattaro never acquired an academic degree through a scientific major such as biology or chemistry, she consistently uses her love and passion for each topic, reading science publications and other news sites, to enhance her journalistic abilities to write weather.com articles.
“I also learn a lot from the people I get to interview all the time, which is my favorite part of the job,” she said.
“It’s fun to work and do what you’re interested in,” Dattaro said. “I’ve been really lucky that I found journalism at school and that I really like it and have been able to make a living doing it. I feel very very grateful for that.”
Article by Nicole Sullivan
Photo courtesy of Edecio Martinez/The Weather Channel