telling the human stories
at the front lines
of science and democracy
at the front lines
of science and democracy
Ryan Prior is a fellow at The Century Foundation, where he writes about Long COVID and chronic diseases as a journalist-in-residence with TCF's Disability Economic Justice Team. He is the award-winning author of The Long Haul: Solving the Puzzle of the Pandemic's Long Haulers and How They Are Changing Healthcare Forever, released in November 2022 through Post Hill Press/Simon & Schuster.
Prior began at CNN in 2015 and served as a science and health features writer during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of his original reported features stories received the highest reader engagement of any story published by CNN in all of 2019. Before joining CNN, he directed, produced, and wrote a feature-length documentary, Forgotten Plague, which The Huffington Post called a "Must-See Documentary." He has also written for The Guardian, The Daily Beast, USA Today, STAT News, Business Insider, and The Nation. He now writes a column called "Psychology Today."
The Long Haul was published with an excerpt in Newsweek, garnered strong reviews in the LA Times and Science, and also received coverage on CNN and on PBS' NewsHour.
Prior is a five-time Stanford Medicine X ePatient Scholar, and sits on the board of directors of the #MEAction Network. He grew up in an Air Force family, with stints in Nebraska, Okinawa, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and central Georgia. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Georgia with degrees in English and International Affairs, and was named to the school's 40 Under 40 list for 2018.
All programs below are approximately 60-90 minutes in duration but can be adjusted based on your needs and/or time restrictions. The typical time breakdown is a 60-minute keynote + a 30-minute Q&A.
innovation: how patients can
change the world
The Covid-19 pandemic illustrated the power of human-centered design to solve complex problems. With public health experts caught off-guard by the millions suffering long-term consequences of Long COVID, many of the best solutions and research insights came from the patients themselves. These types of situations are self-generated by those directly experiencing a policy issue, and who can see the problem most clearly. Knee-bending desperation is a catalyst for world-changing innovation. This is true in healthcare, and true across industries. Innovations can stick when they fuse direct lived experience with world-class expertise.
In this talk, Prior explains how the so-called "experts" aren't always the best poised to solve problems. In fact, it's often those at the margins—the outcasts and the most vulnerable—who might have the most to teach us.
Storytelling & Activism:
The policymaking hero's journey
We are programmed to process the world through stories. And highlighting vibrant characters in a world amid crisis is the surest way to clarify an increasingly complex world. Policy change occurs when we spotlight the most wrenching and inspiring human stories at the heart of a problem. The best stories get told when we have a clear protagonist and a plot. Throughout history, from the Iliad to Star Wars, the most enduring narratives have been what scholar Joseph Campbell calls "the hero's journey." We can directly implement these literary devices into any daily communication task.
In this talk, Prior explores how your organization can drive change by harnessing timeless literary principles and cutting-edge insights from news outlets to write stories that launch a million page views. On the CNN trending news team, the motto was "we don't follow trends, we set trends." We explore how to write the sharpest headlines, choose the most arresting photography, and even how to artfully write subheads, breaking up the story and holding readers' attentions. Strategic storytelling can produce transformative results: attracting volunteers, revamping fundraising, and scaling organizational impact.
misinformation: how to process
information like a journalist
As a journalist, how do you deal with the issue of misinformation? It's often the first question many people ask when they meet a journalist.
While at CNN, Prior covered politics during the 2016 election, before working in social media newsgathering, during an historic rise in fake information. And he was a science writer during the global pandemic. At each phase, telling the clearest version of the truth meant spotting misinformation before it had time to fester.
In this talk, Prior gives tools you can use to lead your team through the noise, making sense of the world, as we grapple with a deluge of information. Often, the best defense is a good offense: Communicators must frame information effectively, and readers must learn to spot it. You'll need to have a grounding in scientific literacy to understand the hierarchy of evidence. Solid reporting requires old-fashioned shoe leather journalism combined with factchecking, human-centered framing, and context.
And remember, less is more. If you're drowning in social media, news alerts, and 24/7 coverage, here's a simple, yet radical, solution: Totally unplug. Subscribe to a weekly news magazine like Time, Newsweek, or The Economist. Read it cover to cover every Sunday afternoon, nestled in a comfortable chair. You'll be more informed and less stressed.
At its core, journalism is about understanding how do we know what we know? It's a skillset we all need if we want to be strong citizens.
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