After his brief experience with TV production in high school, Ira Flatow took a short two-year break before beginning his radio career.
Flatow started out reporting for WBFO-FM in Buffalo, New York in 1969 while working on his engineering degree. In 1970, Flatow had the opportunity to report on several major events, including antiwar speeches, demonstrations, and campus riots. Flatow was promoted to news director in 1971.
In 1971, Bill Siemerling hired Flatow onto National Public Radio’s staff in Washington, DC. Siemering, a former employee of WBFO, created and became the first program director for NPR’s show All Things Considered… On this show, Flatow reported on popular subjects involving the environment, health and medicine, and technology. Ira Flatow helped to found NPR’s science unit; through this unit, Flatow was a part of NPR’s first remote broadcast of the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm.
Flatow served as NPR’s science correspondent between 1971 and 1986. He had the opportunity to report from various famous locations, such as Kennedy Space Center, Three Mile Island, and the South Pole. Flatow was even able to “interview” penguins in Antarctica in 1979.
One of Flatow’s most famous radio reporting was done from a closet, when he joined former All Things Considered host Susan Stamberg in investigating whether Wint-O-Green Lifesavers really spark when chewed in the dark. The two found that the candies do, in fact, spark.
In 1991, Flatow began to report the Friday edition of Talk of the Nation, which soon became Science Friday. On this program, Flatow broadcast a variety of subject matter within the fields of science, technology, health, space, and the environment. It is also a running tradition that Science Friday broadcasts the Ig Noble Prize awards (awards given to amusing and/or pointless researchers) yearly the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Science Friday was distributed by NPR until January of 2014; today, it is distributed weekly by Public Radio International (PRI). In addition to being consumed over the airwaves, Science Friday can be listened to online; in fact, this radio program was the first to be “cybercast” in 1993. It was also the first radio program to be developed into a Podcast. Science Friday remains one of the most popular Podcasts on iTunes today.
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