“I think Sharon is a quintessential Enlightenment figure,” Jon Meacham, former editor-in-chief of Newsweek, said in an email. “She wrote brilliantly on everything under the sun and beyond, from the origins of human life to climate change, from the mysteries of the brain to the death of Diana.”
In her 1997 cover story about Princess Diana, she took readers on the paparazzi chase through the streets of Paris into the quiet of the night at Balmoral Castle, where Prince Charles woke his sons to tell them that their mother – “The mother,” wrote Ms. Begley, “who took her to eat at hamburger pubs and to visit homeless shelters when almost everyone else in her life mainly thought of palaces and polo” – was dead.
The science blow allowed Ms. Begley to research anything that attracted her and to show her wit in a humble way. In a short article on whether women were more elaborate than men, she concluded, “I could go on, but I don’t want to validate any remaining stereotypes.”
In one of her many stories about climate change, she wrote that magazines use an image of a cuddly polar bear rather than an endangered insect, although the disappearance of the insects would “tear a bigger hole in the web of life. ”Newsweek ran this story with a polar bear on the cover.
When Richard L. Berke, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Stat, put together a staff for the then start-up in 2015, he asked for the names of the best science writers in the country. Ms. Begley, then with Reuters, was on virtually every list.
When she got on board, she “brought instant credibility to our fledgling news agency” and inspired other journalists to sign up, said Berke, a former assistant editor-in-chief of the New York Times. During her time at Stat, Ms. Begley broke new ground in the esoteric areas of genomics and genetics, but always in reader-friendly prose.
She wrote with moral clarity. In one piece, she suggested that the lack of urgency in finding a cure for sickle cell disease was due to the fact that it mainly affected “the wrong people” – that is, blacks. In another case, she said a “cabal” of researchers thwarted advances in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s by “dogmatically” clinging to a theory of the disease and rejecting alternative approaches.