Xenoposeidon week, day 1-and-a-half: the media

November 15, 2007

I knew that Xenoposeidon is awesome. But I wasn’t prepared for the fact that the rest of the world seems to realise this, too. I got up at 4:45 this morning to get a train into London to do, as I thought, a brief bit of film for ITN about the new dinosaur. But I kept on — and on — getting calls from other media outlets wanting a piece of the hot Xenoposeidon action. As I write this, I am finally on the train home, having done:

  • Interview with ITN at the musuem, in front of (why not?) the Camarasaurus mount with the painfully disarticulated sacrum.
  • Phone interview with Wave FM, which I think is a South Coast commercial station. (I did this on a mobile while in the car in which those nice ITN people were giving me a lift to their building).
  • Channel 4 News, live at about 12:20.
  • Another live TV interview, this one on BBC News 24 at about 2pm.
  • Recorded radio interview to go out later on BBC Radio Five Live Drive. (I think that’s the correct name but I might have missed out a Dive or a Thrive or something. Clive. Shrive.)
  • Remote-in-the-studio interview with BBC Radio Solent, which those nice people at BBC Broadcasting House provided a studio for.

Then, after opportunistically getting my photo taken with a Dalek (it would have seemed churlish not to) …


… I finally left Broadcasting House to get back to the Natural History Musuem (for reasons that will become apparent later), and was just about to get onto the tube when I got a call from BBC Radio Scotland who also wanted to do an interview. So I got back into the BBC where some nice people set me up in the Unattended Studio (its real name) and I did:

  • Radio interview for BBC Scotland

But while that was being arranged, I got yet another call from yet another hunk of the geographically dispersed BBC, which thankfully I was able to get technical support for and go ahead with:

  • Live TV interview with BBC South, done over the wire with an interviewer down in Southampton and with me staring at a blank hunk of black glass trying to smile naturally as though it were an interviewer.

All the while these extra last-minute BBC interviews were going on, I kept phoning to repeatedly postpone the next hunk of filming I was scheduled to do at the musuem, but I finally got there at 4:30 and was able to do:

  • TV interview for Spanish television, apparently to go out across the southern states of the USA as well, with a company whose name I’m afraid eludes me for the moment.
  • Live phone interview with BBC Wales — which I did in the quietest public gallery I could find at the museum, since they weren’t able to find me a proper quiet room to do it in. And finally:
  • Long phone interview with a reporter for Spanish newspaper which, again, to my shame, I can’t remember at the moment.

Plus, I am pretty sure, a bunch more phone interviews, some for radio and some for print, the details of which are now lost to me.

While all this was going, a lot of the daily papers were running the story: I saw it in the Times, Sun, Mirror, Metro, and — the best of all by far — the Guardian. Ian Sample, who wrote the Guardian story, spent a solid 50 minutes on the phone with me yesterday, and did a superb job of putting the story together. We got basically the whole of page 3, which is better than I had dared hope. Isolated partial mid-to-posterior sauropod dorsals are sexy again! I tell you all this not to emphasize how awesome I am (people who know me will tell you that I’m not so hot) but as a tribute to the glory of Xenoposeidon, which the world seems to recognise as the wonder it is.

Throughout the whole experience, I’ve been really impressed by the media people I’ve met, all of whom seem to have been very careful not to misrepresent the story, and most of whom asked intelligent questions. A special shout goes to Catherine Hole of ITV Meridian, who filmed an interview in advance last week and who had clearly done her research in great depth; and also to the Channel 4 News presenter (whose name, you will not be at all surprised to hear, I don’t know) who asked aggressively confrontational questions that gave me the chance to talk about postcranial skeletal pneumaticity live on national television (take that, Wedel!)

While I’m in the thanking-people groove, and without wanting to sound too much like I’m accepting an Oscar, I’ve had superb support throughout from Kate Daniell of the University of Portsmouth Press Office. She’s fielded calls, scheduled interviews, kept me informed, made calls on my behalf when I couldn’t make them, and generally held the ship together while I went swanning off around London having fun. I’ve been jocularly referring to Kate as my agent, but the fact is that she really couldn’t have been more helpful even if that really had been her role in all this.

So hopefully this is a good day for sauropod vertebrae: I think it’s a while since one was so prominently in the national news, and hopefully it’ll open the way for more sauropods in the media down the line. I don’t think I said anything outstandingly dumb … although I might have inadvertently suggested on BBC News 24 that it would be a good idea to cut the head off an elephant. (Kids: don’t try this at home. Or, if you must, at least get a grown-up to help you with the scissors.)

So I’m shattered. But at least I got to eat a lot of sushi on UoP’s dime. Tomorrow I attempt to return to civilian life, the task ahead of me right now being to do enough day-job work this month to pay the mortgage. Hey, it’s not easy being an international media superstar.

Finally: I’m sorry this post has been short on sauropod vertebrae. But normal service will be resumed tomorrow, with Darren’s post on how we interpreted the vertebra.

P.S. The article in The Times translated the name Xenoposeidon proneneukos as “Forward-sloping alien earthquake god”. I kind of like that. It would make a good end-of-level boss in a video game.

15 Responses to “Xenoposeidon week, day 1-and-a-half: the media”

  1. Sally Says:

    Congratulations! It sounds like you had a lot of fun with this, and I look forward to reading the paper!


  2. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what does it look like? Don’t tell me ‘It’s thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle and then thin again at the far end.’

    OK, joking aside, congratulations!

    And you guys do a wonderful job conveying how interesting these animals are. Before SVPOW! it was ‘Sauropod? Snoropod more like.’ but no longer.

    Those are gorgeous pictures in the supplementary material, especially the ones at the bottom in colour. They make the bones look like they were only recently stripped of the soft tissue.

  3. Matt Wedel Says:

    A new dinosaur and a photo-op with a Real Live BBC Dalek in one day? Are the boys convinced they’ve got the coolest dad ever?

    Seriously, dude, congratulations. I read all the press. I liked how the Sun described you as “Mature student Mike Taylor…” In publications like the Sun (ahem), “mature” is a code-word for “hot older person”. I mean, uh, according to Darren.

    I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy level of the reporting. I half-expected to see, “Backwoods hacker finds World’s Largest Dinosaur; bamboozles ivory tower, theory of evolution.”

    I also LOVE the ‘skeletal reconstruction’; that thing has turned up, you know, Out There. Rock!

  4. Darren Naish Says:

    I don’t recall ever describing Mike as a ‘hot older person’; in this context ‘mature’ just means ‘old’. You know, like you’re ‘big boned’.

  5. […] up at Tetrapod Zoology (here). And as you’ll know if you’ve seen Mike’s article from yesterday, the story was all over the national and global media yesterday. To their credit, not one reporter […]

  6. Matt Wedel Says:

    Hey! It’s not MY fault. Your mom never lets me leave without a big breakfast.

  7. Amanda Says:

    “Exterminate! Exterminate!”

    Oh my…Sauropods and Daleks. I’m so jealous!

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    Inspired by Amanda’s comment, I offer a highly sought SV-POW! Gold Endorsement to anyone who can send me a good piece of “Sauropods vs. Daleks” artwork.

  9. Sarah Says:

    Everyone gets to hang out with Daleks but me.

  10. dave Martill Says:

    I trust your thesis will be an equally amusing read

    pip pip

  11. Mike Taylor Says:

    Dave, are you sure that “amusing” is the key thing that the examiners are looking for?

  12. […] are pretty good; in cases surprisingly so. As Mike alluded to in the previous SV-POW! article here, he did quite a few radio and TV interviews. The good news is that you too can now watch at least […]

  13. […] distinction was the best way to do that: or, as I said in one of the many TV interviews, Xeno is about as different from other sauropods as bears are from dogs or cats. Of course, a […]

  14. […] was a good third-of-a-page story in Guardian (thanks to their fine science reporter Ian Sample who also did such a good job on Xeno), and smaller spots in the Times and Independent.  The Telegraph, oddly, in included a nice photo […]

  15. […] hard to pick favourites. But from my own very biased perspective, I particularly enjoyed all eight days of the extended Xenoposeidon week, a rather exhausting series of posts that may make Xeno the […]

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