Miles O’Brien - Reporter
Miles O’Brien - Reporter

Reporting on Science (Part 1)

Miles O’Brien reporting on the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. Photo Credit: The Official Miles O’Brien Page on Facebook

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About This Episode

When it comes to science journalism, there are few reporters with as much experience as Miles O’Brien. In Part 1 of their interview, Neil, Miles and comic co-host Chuck Nice discuss the business of science news. You’ll learn what makes a good science-focused interview, from both sides of the microphone. You’ll find out why CNN started a science division – and why they shut it down. Miles explains the impact of “The Foxification of News” and journalists who make themselves the center of the story. He describes his journey from history major to science reporter, including an interview with CNN’s president who told him, “You don’t know sh*t about science.” Miles also shares his most memorable stories: reporting on the Columbia space shuttle disaster and covering John Glenn’s return to space with “co-anchor” Walter Cronkite. It’s an eye-opening journey beyond the headlines, into the business that decides the science – or lack of science – that gets reported to the rest of the world.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Reporting on Science (Part 1).

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  • C21H30O2

    Great interview. when i hear the name Miles O’Brien can’t help to think of tng

    • Steve

      Honestly, it was my first thought.

      • Bruce Kamiat

        Mine too. I can’t believe nobody brought it up! At least Neil or Chuck could have mentioned it!

    • Hay Suse

      Or DS9 … I wish NdGT remembered

  • C21H30O2

    anyone else think of tng during this episode?

  • Michele Briere

    CNN hasn’t done actual news since MTV stopped playing videos. Pitiful. NPR is now my go-to news source. The nerd in me is enjoying all this science talk I can find online, and this show, talking about science in the news and the reporting thereof, is great. I don’t claim to be a scientist, but I am a science fan. Science in the news is much too short, I want to hear more! Getting my ya-ya’s fulfilled here, though.

    Talking about tragedies -I was recently saying to someone that the thing our nation’s enemies don’t understand is that awful things, whether it is a shuttle tragedy or someone bombing us, we don’t shatter. If anything, we drop all the political/religious crap we are flinging at each other, and we come together to deal with the important stuff. We look it in the face, we take it apart, dissect it, and discuss it until no one wants to hear it anymore. The terrible thing is no longer the scary monster under the bed. And we are stronger for it.

    • Nathan Hohenheim


  • Tom

    My comment for the 18:29 point of the show when Chuck blames Walter Cronkite for putting money in to journalism: It started when he (Walter Cronkite) said on a news cast that he did not believe the United States was winning the Viet Nam war.

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  • Gaerteuth

    I don’t know if this is still a mystery to anyone, but CNN is a joke. A joke with no good setup or punchline. They stay on the same subject for weeks on end, they claim they have breaking news when it ends up being more null evidence, they’re so desperate to keep people watching they’ll blatantly look up excuses to point out that something is “going on”, they act as though facts don’t exist and pose every single issue as a “debate” between two equal sides of the story, and as icing on the cake they supplement it with meaningless CGI, giant iPad nonsense, and 3d animated “recreations”.

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  • Joe C

    Please fix the download option. There is no mp3 file available.

    • startalkradio

      Sorry you’re having trouble, Joe. The good news is that there is an option to download an mp3.

      Each episode also has a page on our website under “shows”, and if you look at the upper right corner of the player, you’ll see a “download” icon. Click it and you can download the MP3.

      Finally, you can click on the icon for our RSS feed and download podcasts that way. Here is a link to that, just in case:

  • Andy_Revkin

    It’s not just confirmation bias (I’ve also been a science journalist for 30 years), but I absolutely agree with Miles’s point defending the science journalist as an authority, not merely a scribe.

    As I said last fall at a Tokyo meeting on communication and the environment:

    “On a complicated, fast-forward planet enveloped in information, journalists who thrive will be those who offer news consumers the same sense of trust that a skilled mountain guide provides to climbers after an avalanche. A sure trail cannot be guaranteed, but an honest effort can.”


    That implicitly implies the journalist is pursued on the basis of hard-won authority, not just stenography — even of science.

    More from Knight Science Journalism Tracker:

    and science blogger Paige Brown has more here:

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  • Eli Wyn

    I love both parts of this interview. I have a science degree; spent 5 years teaching High School Science; and now I’m studying journalism to become a Science Journalist myself. Currently writing an essay on Science Reporting for one of my units, so thanks to StarTalk team for this. Any chance of a transcript being posted though? It’s a shame anyone with hearing problems can’t access this 🙁

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