Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Public radio listeners love science. Programs such as Invisibilia, Radiolab and even Science Friday draw large audiences on stations and have many subscribers for podcasts and other digital media.

Health Science programs typically haven’t done as well in the past because many were “doc talk” shows, preachy know-it-alls and subtle infomercials selling potions and herbs. 

Now there is a medical science show that gets it right: The Pulse [link] from WHYY, Philadelphia. 

The Pulse looks at medical science from the angle of personal experience. Stories emerge where we meet scientists, practitioners and patients. Topics vary from the ordinary (Facing Our Fears) to the extraordinary (Following a Stroke, Finding the Words Can Become a Lifelong Endeavor). The program describes its mission this way:

“The Pulse brings you stories at the heart of health, science and innovation. [We] energize and engage the health and science communities [and] individuals.”

Maiken Scott
At the heart of The Pulse is host and reporter Maiken Scott. Scott is a German transplant who has worked at WHYY since 2008. She has been host of The Pulse since it was launched in 2013.. Scott has a soothing audio presence, confident articulation, optimistic and (I know this kind of a stereotype) the aura of a scientist from Germany.

Maiken was interviewed earlier in 2017 by Philadelphia Magazine [link] who asked her what makes The Pulse different from other science shows:

Maiken: Radiolab is an art form. The way it’s put together is as important as the story. To me, the content comes first. I take the biggest pride in pulling off a really important policy story.

For instance, you can go to the hospital and if the guy who’s doing your anesthesiology isn’t covered by your insurance, you can end up with a $32,000 bill.

If we can make that as listenable as a really sexy story about whales crying 10,000 feet under the ocean, then I’m happy.

Philadelphia Magazine: What’s the most awe-inspiring scientific finding you’ve read about recently? And what’s the scariest?

Maiken: The thing that inspires me the most is the fact that people keep looking for answers. The real work of science is tedious as hell. Genetics are always a little scary.

Philadelphia Magazine: Before you hosted The Pulse, your news beat was behavioral health. How would you rate America’s mental health right now?

Maiken: Being online a lot is not good for most of us. After the election, I went off Facebook for quite some time. My husband and I host a political discussion group at our house. We had one after the election, and by the end, everyone was laughing hysterically. I think people felt like, “Okay, I’m better now.

The Pulse is involved in a partnership with two other organizations with similar missions: The Scientist [link] and Side Effects Public Media [link], a collaboration involving reporters from KBIA in Columbia,
Missouri; St. Louis Public Radio; Illinois Public Media; WNIN in Evansville, Indiana; and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
The Pulse is available to stations via PRX.

Listeners can hear The Pulse podcast on several platforms including iTunes [link] and Facebook [link]. 


WHYY and WXPN continue to do well in the November 2017 PPM ratings compared with November 2016. 

But what is going on at WRTI?  They lost almost 75,000 estimated weekly listeners in the past year. We’d all like to know.

In Boston there isn’t much change since November 2016 for WBUR and WGBH. It is nice to see WERS and WUMB bouncing up. Someone must have taken the air out the tires at WCRB.

The biggest story in the Twin Cities is the rise of Jazz music KBEM. 

KCMP The Current has 296,500 weekly listeners when the terrestrial audience and streaming audience are combined.

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