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‘Top Tips’ for Working with the Media by Paddy Regan, Department of Physics, University of Surrey Science Media Centre Introduction to the News Media 21.

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Presentation on theme: "‘Top Tips’ for Working with the Media by Paddy Regan, Department of Physics, University of Surrey Science Media Centre Introduction to the News Media 21."— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘Top Tips’ for Working with the Media by Paddy Regan, Department of Physics, University of Surrey Science Media Centre Introduction to the News Media 21 th Feb 2014

2 Who am I ? BSc Physics (Liverpool 1988) PhD Experimental Nuclear Physics (York 1991) Post-docs at University of Pennsylvania, USA (1991-2); & Australian National University, Canberra (1992-4). Academic at University of Surrey, Physics Department & the UK National Physical Laboratory –(Lecturer ; Senior Lecturer ; Reader ; Prof. since 2009; NPL Chair of Radionuclide Metrology since 2013.) Fundamental nuclear research funded by STFC / EPSRC –Specialism in nuclear structure physics research; gamma-ray spectroscopy of exotic isotopes. Work mainly at GSI/FAIR. –Some other applied research on radiation in the environment. Run an MSc course in Radiation Protection ( ) Supervised >25 PhDs students (so far) in nuclear physics. Father of 4 school-age kids, poor squash, golf player.

3 My ‘day job’ is to write papers in (fundamental) nuclear structure physics…

4 ..also work in applied physics areas and publish papers in journals on measurement of (nuclear) radiation in the environment...

5 Write general nuclear physics research ‘outreach’ articles too…. Physics World (Nov. 2011)

6 Have been asked to write some newspaper ‘opinion’ pieces…

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8 …and related magazine ‘opinion’ pieces… BBC Focus Magazine (Oct 2011)

9 Why do I know about ‘the media’ ? First (in the deep-end) experience…. Polonium-210 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, November 2006.

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11 …was known by some press from 210 Po story….contacted again intermittently for ‘nuclear’ stories between then and March 2011 when Fukushima story (nuclear reactor problems following Japanese earthquake hit….. A bit older and possibly a bit wiser?

12 Why do I know about ‘the media’ when I started ? Polonium-210 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, November –I was the right person, right time and right place and ‘willing to do it’…called by SMC. –Live TV interviews (BBC, CNN, ITN, Sky etc.) –Recorded interviews (CNN, Russia Today, NBC news etc.) – Radio phone-ins, live interviews (BBC R1, 2, 4 & 5) – Lots of newspaper/magazine interviews/contributions.

13 What followed ? Mobile phones and wifi safety. –The Richard and Judy Show ! – numerous radio phone in shows. Opening of the LHC (big-bang!) Other ‘nuclear news’ e.g., –Syrian ‘nuclear reactor’ destroyed (2008) –Earthquake at Japanese nuclear reactor site (2009) –Funding crisis in UK science (2010) Fukushima (March 2011) –Neutrinos faster than light (2011) –Al-Jazeera, future of nuclear power (2012) –Polonium related to death of Yasser Arafat (2013)

14 What did I know before (2006)? Nothing about the media really. Some radiation physics, I can understand numbers and can read. Was I scared/nervous? Yes, a bit at the beginning, thought I would make an idiot of myself. Got much more relaxed with experience…because you know much more about the subject than the media.

15 Live TV interviews Studios are very small. You’ll wait in a ‘green room’ You will be guided into place by the stage manager. Look at the interviewer when being asked a question. The interviewers are pros, engaging and easy to speak to. They will be distracted while ‘not interviewing’ you Answer directly to them (like you’re down the pub). Wear smartish clothes (from the top up at least!) Bring notes (you can put them in your pocket); ask colleagues before you ‘go on’ screen to check your facts. It’s all over before you know it… Usually take you home afterwards (by taxi etc.) (Usually) no payment (I never asked for any). Ask for copy of interview DVD before you go on. Try to give examples rather than raw numbers –e.g., one teaspoon of water in an entire swimming pool rather than 1 in a billion.

16 Live TV interview example…what can happen…. (Skype interview from my house)….not usual.

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21 Wear what you like! You might well not be in the same studio as the interviewer (e.g., you Guildford BBC SCR (or at home!), them in London). You can call the interviewer by their name e.g., ‘Jeremy’ You can have loads of notes in front of you to refer to. Good to have some numbers etc. Be patient and try not to interrupt, it appears rude and you lose the audience. Don’t be rude/denegrate other people (e.g., in a phone in)…even if you disagree with them vehemently, you can sound very patronising. Live radio interviews

22 Recorded Interviews (TV, Radio and Newspaper) TV and Radio: You can do many ‘takes’ for these. Try not to give ‘prepared answers’, but rather talk freely. What is the interviewers ‘news peg’? You might talk for ~1 hour and they will use ~15 secs. You have little/no ‘editorial control’ but…. In my experience the journalist is not ‘out to get you’….they just want to understand in a short time. If you are misquoted/edited badly, get over it, the vast majority of people will not have noticed or care.

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25 Feedback ?

26 ‘on the sofa’ with ‘Bill and Sian’ BBC Breakfast News…. March 2011

27 …family…

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29 From non-physics friends..

30 Some bad bits….

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35 Some are more amusing….

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39 Professional feedback…what do your peers think ? Does it hurt your (science) career or help?

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41 Some ‘feedback’ …from a well known nuclear academic in a leading UK university..

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43 what does my employer think?

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45 …how soon they forget…

46 Why Bother ? Really quite a good, enjoyable experience. Increases professional profile (mostly positively). You learn new things. Highlights the importance of science in society. We should/have a duty to do such things if called upon ….if not you then who ?


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