Illustration of Nobel medal rising over the city of Stockholm, Sweden

March 19, 2019

Join Chancellor Cartwright on Inside Mizzou for a special-edition, Nobel Week podcast. He talks with the two outstanding undergraduates who traveled to Stockholm, Sweden to cover all of the 2018 Nobel Week events: Meg Cunningham, a senior studying convergence journalism with an emphasis in investigative reporting; and Savannah Rudicel, a senior studying broadcast journalism.

They discuss what made the trip so successful for Meg and Savannah, and what it was like to have our one-of-a-kind Missouri Method highlighted on the world stage.

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Transcript

[00:00:11] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:00:31] Hello, everyone. Welcome to today’s special episode, “the 2018 Nobel Week in Stockholm Sweden.” I am Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, and joining me are two of our outstanding journalism students who had the opportunity to travel to Stockholm with Dr. George Smith and cover all of the 2018 Nobel Week events. Meg Cunningham is a senior studying convergence journalism with an emphasis on investigative reporting, and Savannah Rudicel is a senior studying radio, television and reporting journalism. Thank you both so much for being here.

Meg Cunningham: [00:01:04] Thanks for having us.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:01:05] Thank you.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:01:07] So, after you found out you were going to Stockholm, what did you do to prepare for such an important and challenging job?

Meg Cunningham: [00:01:15] Savannah and I both got out our old textbooks to brush up on some biology and chemistry because we were like, “How are we supposed to explain this, you know, clearly if we don’t know what we’re talking about?” So, we both brushed up on some of that, and then I think just general trying to prepare for the craziness of the week. We did some pre-reporting with both George and his wife, Margie, just to try to get to know them a little bit better. And, of course, we had a couple extensive phone conversations planning out logistics and gear and travel and all of the stuff like that, but really it was one of those things where you just had to hit the ground running when you got there and there wasn’t a ton you could do beforehand. It was just a day to day hold on tight.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:02:01] And Savannah, you?

Savannah Rudicel: [00:02:04]  Right. You know, at the end of the day it’s another story. It’s a big story, and one that was a lot of fun to tell. But, you know, you do as much pre-planning as you can, and then when you get there you…

Meg Cunningham: [00:02:16] Hope for the best.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:02:20] You hope for the best. Exactly. For us, it was a lot of equipment challenges for the television side of things. I worked with a lot of very, very smart engineers at KOMU, like Mark Bates. working on how to get a live shot up. And funnily enough, we used the same technology we use, that we go live from Jefferson City… just going live from Stockholm.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:02:39] Yeah, that’s fascinating. Can you talk a little bit — I seem to remember some interesting travel getting over to Stockholm — can you give us a little bit of background on that?

Savannah Rudicel: [00:02:50] Sure. Nathan and I were supposed to fly out of St. Louis, and we were delayed five or six times, something like that. We missed our connecting flight out of Chicago, so we had a fun little layover there. I ended up flying into Stockholm from Denmark quite a few hours after we were supposed to arrive, but Meg was good. She got there on time.

Meg Cunningham: [00:03:11] Yeah, I was interning in Washington D.C. last semester, and so I came straight from D.C. with my apartment in tow and two very overweight suitcases, and got into Stockholm and I didn’t have any gear so I didn’t really know what to do. I couldn’t check into the hotel, so I kind of just had them stow away my things and I went out and just kind of went for a walk and then ended up kind of starting coverage right then and there. So, I turned over a very bad quality spot for KBIA that was recorded on my phone in a café and then the week ensued.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:03:51] That’s interesting. The fact that you’re able to just come up spontaneously with some way to manage it I think gives a lot to your training here at Mizzou. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges with managing a seven-hour time difference and the large number of events, and when were you live, and how did you manage all of that?

Meg Cunningham: [00:04:14] That’s Savannah’s domain. She’s our TV.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:04:18] Yeah, I was live twice throughout the week because 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. here is midnight, 1 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. And so, when we’re up and at it at 6:30 a.m., 7 a.m. heading to some lectures and then we’re staying up till 4 a.m. the next day, we had to get kind of creative with how we wanted to manage that time. So, a lot of what I recorded I kind of pre-recorded just some intros to other packages I was doing for the day and getting those out. So, it was really nice actually to be able to spend as much time as we did on the stories. So, if our — say the lectures were over around 1 p.m. — then we didn’t have to turn that story over to our newsrooms here until about 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. So, I think we actually had more time to work on our journalism pieces than we would if it was on the same timeline.

Meg Cunningham: [00:05:08] Yeah, I definitely agree. I think once we kind of figured out the working process for how we were going to move things, it got super easy and then it was really like, meeting deadline usually wasn’t an issue for us. So, once we figured it out it was pretty smooth sailing for the most part.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:05:26] What would you — you know, your particular journalism interest and expertise — how did you use that to expose people to the events and insights, to provide insights as much as possible while in Stockholm?

Meg Cunningham: [00:05:40] Yeah, I think one thing — I mean, whenever I told people I was going to Stockholm, they were kind of just, they were fascinated about, you know, the whole thing, but they just wanted to know like what was going on like the day-to-day. And so, I think that’s something we both kind of tried to incorporate in our coverage. Because just the whole thing was so incredibly special, and we’ve heard, you know, about Dr. Smith’s research and things like that beforehand, so we wanted to kind of give a more human aspect to it and we wanted to say, “we’re here like with his family. This is what we’re doing this week. Here’s what they’re getting up to.” So, we kind of wanted to give the audience that content, and that was maybe something a little bit different, super unique that isn’t a normal, you know, newscast or something like that.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:06:29] And again with the time difference, we would be Tweeting and posting things everywhere and no one would be interacting with you, necessarily. Because everyone was still asleep.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:06:39] Exactly. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience watching the Nobel lectures in Aula Magna Hall. What was it really like to hear from some of the most brilliant thinkers and researchers in the world, and what was the energy like in the lectures?

Savannah Rudicel: [00:06:55] The lectures was my favorite part of the whole week. Hands down. Being in there and the challenge that these Laureates must’ve faced to have decades worth of research broken down into 25 minutes in layman’s terms — that was worthy of a prize itself, quite honestly. I think myself and just about everyone else in the room was just on the edge of their seats just trying to understand how their minds worked to make these great discoveries. Yeah, I would say the energy was just excitedly tense.

Meg Cunningham: [00:07:31] Yeah, for sure. There were a lot of students who would come out to watch the lectures. I’m assuming probably from Stockholm University. And yeah, everyone was just so engrossed, and just to hear each Laureate’s different impact is just absolutely fascinating. They all kind of connect to the industry in different ways, but it all comes full circle when it comes to like sharing the award and, you know, the way that their research works together. So, it was really, really fascinating and listening to Dr. Smith… I mean he did this research decades ago, and so he’s talked about this a couple of times because he really was a pioneer for this stuff, even though he wants to act like he wasn’t. He just did such an eloquent job of explaining it, and I felt really lucky to be sitting there in that lecture hall listening to him because I think it was something that probably a lot of people didn’t get to get such a comprehensive view of what he’s been doing so clearly explained for our poor minds to try to understand.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:08:37] I just loved how their personalities came out while they were presenting as well. You can read all their research and it kind of starts to sound similar, but you really got to see the difference between the three Laureates in chemistry in the way that they presented.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:08:48] Yeah, there was clearly a difference in personalities. And, you know, I’m of course biased, but I would say Dr. Smith just did a phenomenal job in his presentation just in honoring those who came before him, honoring the people who worked with him and thinking about the future of science at the same time. So, a fascinating presentation, so anybody who hasn’t seen it, watch it. Try to find it and look at that.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:09:13] It’s funny as well.

Meg Cunningham: [00:09:15] Yeah, very funny. He’s a funny guy.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:09:18] Yeah, I agree. So, both of you also have the opportunity to talk to some of Dr. Smith’s previous students, postdocs and colleagues. What did you learn from them about him, about the process, about the research?

Meg Cunningham: [00:09:33] I always love listening to people talk about things that they’re passionate about, so even though I have no clue what they’re talking about when they’re talking about moving DNA around in cells or whatever the heck else they do, it’s still so absolutely fascinating. So, I got to listen to him kind of just sit down and chat with his wife and a couple of researchers from M.I.T. and Stanford — and just, I mean, incredibly incredible minds — and just listening to them talk shop for a little while was just so fascinating, and I was like my brain has no clue what they’re even saying, but I’m so into this conversation. And talking to his students, you really got a sense of how selfless he was when he was in the lab, and he really tried to be a model for them — not only as a person, but also as a scientist and as a researcher. There was a really great quote someone said about, you know, he wanted it 100 percent every single time and he wasn’t going to settle, and if there was even one wavering bit that looked maybe like something was off, it was do it again. Let’s try it again. I mean he’s just so dedicated, and I think all of his postdocs are the same way now because he just created such an intense mold for them. It was just fascinating conversation with them.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:10:56] From his postdoctoral fellows, it feels like we were able to learn things about Dr. Smith that he was too modest to say exactly. I think a lot of them really look up to him and credit most of their successes that they have today to what they learned in his lab — not just the science of it all, but also the attitude that you take toward science, the service that you do for the science community and the community abroad. And in general it’s both, you know, I think hard skills and soft skills that you learn from from a professor like that.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:26] You know when you were there, you talked about the community, you talked about the joy of being there, you talked about the excitement. How much people wanted to engage with the process while there. Can you talk a little bit about that? How did you see those things come together — the community, the joy of being there? How do they come together, and how did they make it special?

Savannah Rudicel: [00:11:51] We were told if there’s ever a time to see Stockholm, it’s during the Nobel Prize ceremony week. Not only is it all decked out and everything’s prepared for the Laureates, it’s just close to Christmas as well. Someone we met there told us that, you know, since it’s dark often in Sweden — there’s not a lot of sunlight in those winter months — that they make Christmas last as long as they can to keep the happy part of winter alive as well.

Meg Cunningham: [00:12:17] Yeah.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:12:19] We met some incredible people just on the street, as we were going around. And during the ceremony as all the Laureates and dignitaries were arriving, it was a little bit like a red carpet event, but I mean this happens every year for them. And they’re just kind of, “I’ll stop for a little while and watch.”

Meg Cunningham: [00:12:42] Yeah. I mean people were talking and they said the royal family used to be a little bit more public than they are now. And so, people would come out — that’s what they were doing, they obviously wanted to see some of the most esteemed academics in the world. But the king and queen are also there looking amazing. So, let’s try to catch a peek. We were sitting out there waiting in the bitter cold, and the Swedes are just so friendly. They wanted to help us. They wanted to know what we were doing. You know, where are you from, dada dada da. And so, it was like super fun to just sit there and kind of talk to them and, you know, learn from them and figure out why they like the Nobel so much. And then also the Nobel kind of organization kind of constructs this way for everyone to meet each other in a certain setting. There’s a lot of these little receptions and things where people can go and toil around, so it was just very interesting because, you know, the Smiths would have a very structured event, but then they’d be like, “Oh, we also have this little scheduled coffee, and we’re gonna go kind of talk shop for a little while over here.” You can tell they’re kind of trying to generate some you know ideas and see you know what other people are working on, and so they just had such a good time I think catching up with old colleagues and old friends. And, you know, “I read this guy’s paper, you know, in the 90s, and now I’m finally meeting him and his research is so fascinating.” So, that aspect of it was very cool. I wish we could have seen a little bit more of that.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:14:15] That’s fascinating. So, you know, a big part of the journalism school of course is learning through hands-on and that’s the Missouri Method. This is quite a unique experience, and how do you think this has helped you as students currently, and how do you think it’s going to help you long term with your career?

Meg Cunningham: [00:14:37] I don’t know about Savannah, but I had never done an assignment where I was just turned on for a week straight. I mean by the end of it my eyes were bloodshot. I probably looked like a crazy person.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:14:48] Only a little.

Meg Cunningham: [00:14:51] Because we were exhausted. But just having to push through and persevere for a week when all we wanted to do was sleep and the sun was setting at 3 p.m. We were just so tired. It was really difficult, but, you know, it’s just one of those things you just got to put your head down and keep going, and we obviously have our long days here in the J-School or long weeks, but that was especially challenging. But now I’m like, “Ok. I did that. I’ll be fine until Wednesday when I get this story turned or something.” But yeah, it was definitely a challenge, but I learned a lot.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:15:25] Yeah. A lesson in perseverance and stamina.

Meg Cunningham: [00:15:29] Yes, stamina. Pacing yourself, and the importance of carbs.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:15:32] And if I remember correctly, you had some exams to come back to.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:15:36] I did, yeah.

Meg Cunningham: [00:15:38] Yeah, we both were kind of trying to study on the plane on the way home, and I had my capstone presentation the next day. So, it was really — it’s just you do what you gotta do.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:15:50] My communications law exam was the next day, and Sandy Davidson was wonderful and accommodating for that, and I just think all the professors and the faculty here were so great to work with for sure — especially on the KOMU side. You know, I’d be kind of frantic or calling or, you know, trying to get a nap in before the live shot but making sure they had everything they needed, and it was just very much like a “whatever you need, we’re here for.” It just really showed me how much support we’ve got. You know, this is the hands-on method, and we were the reporters out in the field, but we were never alone.

Meg Cunningham: [00:16:24] Yeah.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:16:25] We had a lot of people rooting for our success or doing anything they could to help us. So, it just — it’s just a reminder of what great faculty we’ve got here and what they do for us.

Meg Cunningham: [00:16:33] That’s like a perfect point for me to interject and shout out Ryan and Nathan…

Savannah Rudicel: [00:16:38] Absolutely.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:39] Exactly.

Meg Cunningham: [00:16:39] …for being so incredible and kind of spearheading this and helping us out. And I don’t know how he does it, but Nathan knows everything. Thank God he was there with us because he knew every single thing that could possibly go wrong. He was ready to tackle it, which was just so great, because really at the end of the day we were just hoping that everything was fine, and he was making sure that — I mean I don’t know how many backup XLR cables we had. It was a lot. And then of course Ryan’s been kind of holding on to this collaboration thing that the J-School is trying to work on, and so he was very open to trying new ideas and kind of figuring out what we can do to bring back the best coverage. So, it was just so much fun experimenting with them and trying to figure out the most efficient way to do things but also still being very unique. Such a cool experience and really glad I got to kind of work so closely with them for the week. It was so much fun.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:17:38] Yeah. And going into the workforce, you know, you do see a lot more converging in newsrooms and a lot more multimedia showing up on different platforms. So, that was a really cool experience to get to work on that now — you know, with all the faculty here and with Meg and going into looking into jobs and things like that. Already having something like that in our back pockets, some kind of experience. That will help, and I’m not sure what else we could do to stand out from other journalism graduates when looking for jobs.

Meg Cunningham: [00:18:09] This is enough. For sure.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:18:11] You know, I talk quite a bit about how fabulous Dr. Smith was and his wife, Margie, and, you know, they really have been. Their entire family has been just so engaged with this process and so giving of their time, and they did a phenomenal job while in Stockholm. But I have to say that the two of you and the entire team just were fabulous. You did such a great job in Stockholm. Really made us proud and shows why we really do have the oldest and best journalism school in the world. So, thank you. Before we end, I’m supposed to ask you a question, and I think it’s appropriate since we were in Stockholm and it was quite cold. So, why should you stand in a corner of a room if you get cold?

Meg Cunningham: [00:18:57] I have no clue.

Savannah Rudicel: [00:19:01] I’m not sure.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:19:03] Because it’s always 90 degrees.

Everyone: [00:19:08] (Laughing)

Savannah Rudicel: [00:19:08] If you could hear my eyes rolling.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:19:12] Thank you so much.

[00:19:21] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is “Forest Park Rhapsody,” composed by MU undergraduate and music composition major Ben Colagiovanni. You can find more information about Ben and his piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time, and keep an eye out for the chancellor’s newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Inside Mizzou. See you around the columns!