Photo by

Michelle Nijhuis’ award-winning reporting on science and the environment appears in National Geographic, Smithsonian, and many other publications. A longtime contributing editor of High Country News, she lives off the grid with her husband and daughter in rural western Colorado. She and Thomas Hayden are the co-editors of The Science Writers' Handbook.

3 responses to “Pass the Mic: Lessons from a radio-interview marathon”

  1. Susan Moran

    Great post, Michelle! Maybe I’ll pass it along to my radio interviewees ahead of the science show. It helps me empathize with being on the other end of the interviews.

  2. Susan Crockford

    Here’s another perspective on a somewhat similar experience.

    Several years ago now, I was chosen by the producers of a NATURE science documentary in which I took part to help promote the film before it was aired. I’m a scientist, not a journalist and this was certainly a new experience for me.

    They flew me to New York City (from the west coast) to do a “satellite media tour” – 17 interviews, back to back, radio and TV, between 7:00am and 1:00 PM. There was hardly enough time to collect my thoughts in between. One was NPR international, which went to overseas troops.

    I was given NO detailed information about what to expect, in part, I think, because the organizers did not either. It was truly live and uncontrolled. I did, however, have a makeup girl – my first time for that experience as well!

    On top of that, they gave me a dog to hold (not MY dog) – a dog who most decidedly did not want to be there. In other words, a distraction I most definitely did not need. Luckily, the executive producer of NATURE was with me and able to help out (when I was muttering, not quite under my breath, “will you just SIT!”).

    Under the circumstances, I think I did very well.

    I have to say, however, that I much preferred the radio interviews. The hosts asked much more intelligent questions and it was clear they had done at least a bit of research. Not so the TV ‘talking heads.’ Totally inane questions and comments, and yes, the stupid jokes.

    Quite an experience, regardless of whether its well organized or not.


  3. Jane

    Excellent post. This should be required reading for every interviewee!

    I especially agree with #5. Recently, a young female American journalist from a major newspaper *giggled* on air while being interviewed by BBC World News (radio). Yes, she was being herself (and was probably nervous), but….

    It also seems that some younger interviewees aren’t able to formulate thoughts in advance of speaking, and so they seem to stutter and restart their sentences repeatedly, when a split-second of judicious silence would solve the problem. No verbal processing buffer!

Leave a Reply