Donning the Public Media Lab Coat
by Susan Leem, associate producer
“Under normal conditions, the research scientist is not an innovator but a solver of puzzles.”
— Thomas Kuhn
I always thought I would become a scientist. As a little kid I had an affinity for white lab coats, beakers, flasks, all the accouterments of the pop culture view of a mad scientist. Plus I admired their mission: to test an idea, a theory, a hypothesis of how something in the world works. My teacher told us that a hypothesis is a guiding question based on complex observation, and I thought that maybe I already was a scientist. And I had a hunch that I wasn’t the only one.
Whose observations of the world and her place in it isn’t incredibly complex? Who isn’t testing a theory, a joke, or a product on the reactions of the people they meet, read about, or hear on the radio? Finding public radio in my small town in the deep South was like finding a secret hidden laboratory. And I still feel like I’m slipping on that imaginary white lab coat when I tune in.
I started to produce live radio so that I could really be in the trenches and roll up my sleeves to put the news of the day to the test of experts and the everyman (that’s one purpose of the call-in format anyhow). But how to test my most personal questions about how to live well and treat others using this method? When Speaking of Faith changed its name to On Being, I finally had my answer. The name change resonated with me as an affirmation of how I listened to the show, and how I test my theories against my experience.
Now that I have just become the newest member of the On Being production staff, I am eager to learn how you, fellow listeners and armchair scientists, hear the show and hear the world. Email me or leave a comment right here.