I had a chance to catch up with Moira Gunn, host of NPR’s Tech Nation and BioTech Nation, at this year’s Exponential Medicine conference at the beautiful Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. We chatted about how she parlayed her love of all things tech into a fascinating (and fabulous) decades-long career as a science journalist. Here’s a link to the video convo.
Moira told me her parents, who were History and English majors, started to worry as she jumped from being a math major to getting a Master’s degree in computer science and eventually a Ph.D in mechanical engineering. They had hoped she would finish up her education, as she told me, “on time and under budget.” They were relieved when she finally got a job at NASA.
Moira’s “problem” was that she found everything interesting. Luckily, early on, she happened to visit her old university where she ran into “the nerd who ran the radio station.” He asked her if she would like to start a technology show with him. She told him she would, but only if she could cover “all of tech.” When he asked her what she meant by that, she replied, “Well, if god didn’t make it, it’s technology.” He agreed and that was the beginning of Tech Nation.
That was 22 years ago. After a year, they moved the show over to KQED, the big NPR station in San Francisco and ten years later, they added a second show, BioTech Nation. The programs are now on ~200 stations nationwide. They are also on XM Sirius and are syndicated worldwide.
Moira has done more than 2,000 interviews with people involved in science and technology including the “Google boys,” the Yahoo guys, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos—all before they became the tech giants that they are today.
She told me, “You never know where the great interview is going to come from.” Her job, she said, “is to make the tech and science palatable to people“—to present the concepts, not just the nitty gritty facts. She wants to be able to bring everyone along so they can understand the ideas behind the technology and understand whether it will benefit or hurt society.
She certainly has done that and more and she has garnered a legion of fans along the way. We are all lucky that Moira’s problem was loving everything and that she found a way to share that passion with the world.