Katie King: My NS Internship...
Three weeks after handing in my thesis, I rocked up at the Naked Scientists offices ready to begin my science radio journey. I had followed the Naked Scientists for a while, and looked up to many of their previous interns and producers, so I was excited to start…
While waiting at the front entrance, daydreaming about what the next 8 weeks had in store for me, I glanced over at the ‘in’/’out’ board of the building and noticed the name ‘Ravey’... this couldn’t possibly be Julia Ravey? Surely not! Julia is a phenomenal science communicator who I had followed on Instagram for over a year and had looked up to throughout my PhD, could this be her?
‘Hi Katie!’, said Sally, the producer who I would be working under. I knew of Sally through finding her YouTube channel years previously; not only is Sally’s enthusiasm contagious but she has the ability to explain complex matters simply, so I knew I had a lot to learn from her. ‘So that’s Verner’s desk, that’s where Harry sits, that’s Julia’s, Iacopo’s and this is where you will be’. DING, it IS Julia Ravey. I couldn’t believe that I would be working alongside such talented individuals for these eight weeks and couldn’t wait to meet the rest of the team! WOW!!! Within the first hour of being in the office, I was asked to find 4 news stories to summarise and pitch to the rest of the team… immediately it was all systems go!
Why I applied
Learning and regurgitating information in digestible chunks for the cerebral chomping of others (oh the imagery…) is one of my passions. My previous science communication experience: interviewing on camera, writing short science pieces and presenting tech lessons for children all remained within my ‘area’ of science with an educational purpose.
Science communication is, in my opinion, an incredibly powerful interface between researchers and the public. With the ability to influence public perception, communication of research must be clear and accurate. I wanted to learn what it takes to create great relevant news stories across all areas of science - something I had no experience in - so where better to learn than at the Naked Scientists!!
There was no easing into the internship. You are immediately thrown in and trusted to produce weekly news items. In my first week, I picked a news story on whale poo (who doesn’t want to hear about that?). I learnt many lessons, including the fact that nothing is more irksome than listening to your own voice over and over again in edit. My first interview was a sharp learning curve - I asked questions from far too analytical a perspective and lost the bigger picture; I let the interview run too long, and I wasn’t thinking about ‘flow’... great job me (!).
‘Katie, what happened to your voice?’ Sally challenged me whilst listening to my second news piece. ‘You normally speak with such sing song in your voice but as soon as the microphone is in front of your face, it seems to disappear…. Just be you!’. After a few moments laughing hysterically, I let Sally’s words sink in and it was the best piece of advice. Later that week I went to the studio to practice ‘loosening up’ in front of the microphone, trying out various tones and pitches with my voice. As it turns out, Attenborough-style presenting should be left to Sir David Attenborough himself, but my rendition of the ‘Yellow Submarine’ is something to be reckoned with. Each week I focussed on a different skill that needed improvement - whether it be on the mic or in editing - and I felt like I had progressed dramatically over the course of the eight weeks.
During my third week, I was repsonsible for answering a space-based 'Question of the Week'. As a slight space nerd, I thoroughly enjoyed answering the question of whether there is an air traffic control equivalent in space to avoid satellite collisions. I learnt a lot when answering this question and found it a great opportunity to connect with people who work in an industry that I would love to be a part of in the future.
Producing a back-half
After about 2-3 weeks, it was time to start thinking about the show that I would be producing (a 30 minute back half). The weekly production meetings are critical for the success of all shows and I believe are central to the core of the success of the Naked Scientists. I found brainstorming potential storylines with the team incredibly insightful and invaluable in the design of my own show. In the end, my back half explored the past, present and future of nanotechnology, comparing public perception with the reality of the field, the full story having only come together as a consequence of these incredibly productive production meetings. Both Sally and I were to be on mics… that’s right… I was to be entrusted with a live mic and I couldn’t have been more excited.
The week leading up to the show was intense as I had to edit three pre-recorded pieces and write the script. Other naked scientists helped me out to ensure that everything was ready on time and I couldn’t have been more grateful to the team!!
The time finally came around for the live broadcast and the whole experience couldn’t have flown more quickly. I hadn’t fully appreciated the number of checks that needed to be conducted before broadcast and was very glad that all I was responsible for were the words I said into the microphone. In a blink (or 60 minutes), it was all over and I felt an incredible high and sense of accomplishment. I couldn’t stop smiling and felt like Sally and I had made a great team together.
During my internship, I learnt the skills of audio editing, how to make interviewees feel comfortable and that there is no 'correct' way to tell the story, but multiple ways to impart information to others. Most importantly, I learnt that teamwork truly makes the dream work. WIthout the help of the Chris, Sally, Harry, Julia, Verner, Iacopo, Otis and Tricia, I would not have learnt as quickly as I did and would not have laughed anywhere near as much. Thank you for all of the memories, pizza lunches, laughs and SNACKS!