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Sandra Tsing Loh's Scrappy Journalism

Sandra Tsing Loh's Scrappy Journalism

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Sandra Tsing Loh is a Caltech grad (Physics, '83) -- "truly a B.S. degree," so she "truly knows what is means to be confused by science."

She brought her one-woman show to open the second seminar of the California Broadcast Fellowship as the keynote speaker. Loh is the creative mind behind The Loh-Down on Science, a radio show that airs on over 100 radio stations, including KPCC 89.3 in Southern California.

The show bills itself as "your daily dose of science in less than two minutes." One minute thirty, to be exact. She explains the timing this way: "60 seconds was too short, and 120 seconds was long enough to get ourselves into trouble that we didn't want. 90 seconds was the right time. It gave room for a joke at the top, the science, and a joke at the bottom."

They pick the quirky stories (in Asia, a new battery came out that is powered by urine -- the p-cell?), or make even the driest science news interesting: Wine sellers turn to physicists to test their products; food made from hair (kind of); and from today's segment, why men look women up and down.

She showed the fellows a first draft of a script, as she gets it: short, but convoluted, but not as convoluted as the original explanation of researchers explaining their discovery. Her producer takes a stab, and then Loh puts her frenetic energy to work. "Some of them come, and some we work really hard for," Loh explains. "Jokes, for us, sometimes come in the delivery."

Loh also appears on National Public Radio's "This American Life" and contributes to the Atlantic Monthly. She says she is sympathetic to reporters trying to make constant bad news fresh to audiences: "The budget is being cut, and puppies are being drowned to save $10!"

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