Spolight on Metcalf Alumni
Jacopo Pasotti – 2011
Switzerland-based freelance writer and photojournalist Jacopo Pasotti has trekked across the planet telling stories about science, cultures, and our natural world for decades. “I know I’m doing something good because I’m covering subjects that normally would go uncovered,” said Pasotti, a 2011 alumnus of Metcalf Institute’s Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists. “I’m learning many things and I’m making my contribution to informing citizens.”
The scientific world is familiar territory for Pasotti, who spent 10 years as a researcher studying Earth Sciences and working on projects such as geo-morphological hazards (landslides and soil erosion) before transitioning to journalism. His stories have appeared in a variety of publications including National Geographic, Vanity Fair, Wired, and Scientific American.
Pasotti’s current work focuses on everything from sea level rise, climate studies, and pollution to disaster risk management and mitigation. “I had have had the privilege to witness amazing sites, from the geographic North Pole to the Giant Crystals Cave in Mexico and Antarctica,” said Pasotti. After a recent trip to Indonesia, he published a story about efforts by scientists to integrate indigenous knowledge and
tradition into risk management practices, ten years after the tsunami that killed 225,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and nine other countries bordering the Indian Ocean.
Pasotti, like other freelance journalists, has a major obstacle to overcome in covering these types of environmental stories – finding the funds to get there. He says editors are reluctant to finance his environmental projects because many of the stories he covers deal with problems that tend to develop slowly overtime, unlike major natural disasters that are more likely to grab headlines. “I come with an idea and sometimes they say, Jacopo, it’s nice, but it’s not news. It probably will be news in 20 years,” said Pasotti.
Pasotti has had to get creative about bridging that financial gap, relying on three types of funding sources: securing sponsors for his travel expenses, like a photo memory card company, for example, that pays for his expenses in exchange for photos and an acknowledgement of the company in his stories; convincing tourism offices to pay for his expenses in exchange for a piece about local tourism attractions; and the most common vehicle for Pasotti, traveling with research teams, at their expense, and reporting on their scientific expeditions.
Pasotti looks back on his Metcalf fellowship with fond memories, especially the opportunity to break away from deadlines to spend a week immersed in science with other journalists from a variety of backgrounds. “ I learned a lot from working with other journalists and sharing experiences,” said Pasotti. “It was valuable to witness the way in which other journalists understand the same subjects.”
Pasotti says each year he makes a point to encourage others in his field to attend the workshop.
He’s also reaching out to younger generations with a children’s book he authored on science and the environment. The Italian-language book focuses on two kids who save the world from dread by meeting scientists in an adventurous trip around the world. Pasotti is hoping to find an editor to translate the book into English.