National Geographic’s podcast, Overheard at National Geographic will return for its sixth season Tuesday, May 4. Each weekly episode takes listeners behind the conversations overheard at Nat Geo headquarters, Zooms and Slack chats, as editors plan stories with explorers and scientists, photographers and journalists all over the world.
At this critical and creative time in the podcasting industry, we are delighted to feature a new generation of Overheard voices as we illuminate and share wild, wonderful stories from across the universe. This season, listeners will meet more of the Overheard team as senior editor Eli Chen and producers Brian Gutierrez and Jacob Pinter step up to the mic to bring listeners on new journeys into this big, weird, beautiful world.
“Our world pulsates through its vibrant cultures, and it brings me great pride to welcome alongside hosts Peter Gwin and Amy Briggs, the voices of our science editor and producers Eli Chen, Brian Gutierrez and Jacob Pinter as guest hosts. Their presence and commanding and yet differing storytelling styles make for a rich and fun listening experience,” says Davar Ardalan, Executive Producer of Audio.
How did you end up working in podcasts?
I’ve been a science journalist for about a decade, starting as an intern at the public radio talk show Science Friday and then spending several years as a science and environment reporter at NPR member stations. I always looked forward to getting out into the field with my microphone to follow scientists. I came to Nat Geo to work on audio stories that encourage us to become more curious about this bizarre and weird world we live in.Eli Chen, Overheard at National Geographic Senior Editor
I started out producing live events. My first media job was helping find and vet speakers for TED conferences. Then I started producing live events that were also podcasts. I helped launch a spinoff of the podcast Freakonomics called Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.Brian Gutierrez, Overheard at National Geographic Podcast Producer
My background is heavy in news. Before Nat Geo, I was a producer at NPR’s Morning Edition and the podcast UpFirst. I also have stints as a local sports reporter in Arkansas and an English teacher in Thailand, and I’d like to think those experiences make me a better podcast producer too.Jacob Pinter, Overheard at National Geographic Podcast Producer
What was your favorite part of co-hosting Overheard? Was there anything you were nervous about?
As a former public radio reporter, being on-air is not a new experience for me, but this is my first time hosting an interview in a podcast format, so I was slightly nervous about it. But I was really excited to talk to photographer Kiliii Yuyan, who is a great storyteller and shared such compelling descriptions about his experiences camping in the Arctic with native Alaskans.Eli Chen
I love interviewing people! There is something really special about sitting down with someone who is much smarter than me and getting a chance to learn as much as I can from their experiences.Brian Gutierrez
My favorite part was being back in front of a microphone… and that was also the part that made me the most nervous! We’re teaming up with ESPN for a story about the Olympics and Covid-19, and my first interview as host was a fun chat with Pablo Torre, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast. Spending time (virtually) with Priscilla Frederick Loomis, an Olympic high jumper recovering from Covid, has also been really rewarding. She’s so inspiring, and it’s a privilege to bring her story to Overheard.Jacob Pinter
What impact do Nat Geo science producers have on season 6 of Overheard?
The great thing about season 6 is that you’ll be hearing more of our voices. Jacob Pinter and Brian Gutierrez have been hard at work interviewing guests and writing scripts since season 1, but now that they’re stepping in front of the microphone, you’ll really hear their personalities and their passion for science and history stories. Our producers overall are doing more to find diverse characters who have captivating, sound-rich stories to share with our audience.Eli Chen
The scientific method naturally has a built in narrative structure. It starts with a question about the world, tries to answer that question, and then comes to a conclusion having learned something new. The producers on our team are really good at taking listeners through that journey in a fun and entertaining way.Brian Gutierrez
“Producer” is such a hard word to define, but I tell people we do a little of everything to get Overheard on the air. By turns we’re reporters, writers, talent scouts, audio editors, and team players who know our job is ultimately to make the hosts and the show look good. There’s an old joke that a mathematician is a machine that turns coffee into theorems. We’re similar: insert coffee, receive podcast episode.Jacob Pinter
Why is it important to include different voices on Overheard?
Science and history stories are for everyone and I think it matters to our audience, whether they’re Black, white, Latinx, Asian, indigenous, LGBTQ that they be able to see people like them out being curious and exploring our world. And that especially matters to our younger listeners who are forming their identities and trying to figure out what paths are open to them as they become adults.Eli Chen
Hearing a human voice can feel very intimate. I saw this study showing that a group of kids had the same hormonal response from hearing their mother on the phone as physical contact. Hearing someone’s voice makes you feel like you know them. I think the podcast medium is at its best when the listener can walk away feeling like they got to know people they never would have met otherwise.Brian Gutierrez
Nat Geo’s biggest superpower is bringing to the table scientists and storytellers from around the world. There are people from all walks of life working to make the world a better place, and it’s a thrill to give them a voice. Featured in the episode “Why War Zones Need Science Too,” Ella Al-Shamahi pushes the boundaries of what we think is possible, or the way we think the world “should” be. We want to highlight those voices who keep pushing and keep fighting.Jacob Pinter
What has been your favorite episode of Overheard that you have worked on so far?
I loved listening to the field tape that Peter Gwin collected in the Himalayas for the snow leopard episode in season 5. He and Nat Geo Explorer Prasenjeet Yadav had such great chemistry, whether it was on a treacherously narrow mountain road or up high in the cliffs looking for this elusive ghost cat. It was really invigorating to craft scenes with this tape and help our listeners feel that they were hiking alongside Peter in such a high-altitude, bitterly cold and remote part of the planet.Eli Chen
“The Battle for the Soul of Artificial Intelligence” is my favorite episode so far. I really appreciated getting the opportunity to host an episode and display a little more of my personality than I typically get to. In this episode a “robot” partner helps me tell the story in a playful way that enabled some interesting—almost Socratic—writing possibilities.Brian Gutierrez
I’m proud of Overheard, and I love the way we’ve continued to evolve and rethink the show since we launched two years ago. So it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I will always have a soft spot for two episodes I worked on in Season 2: “Digging Up Disaster” and “The Aquarius Project.” Both are stories with warm, generous, curious people at the center.Jacob Pinter
What are you most looking forward to about season 6?
We have two episodes that feature audio diaries from an Olympic high jumper who is training while dealing with long haul COVID-19 symptoms and the engineer who builds fascinating camera contraptions for Nat Geo’s photographers. While those episodes are very different, the two of them have given us a lot of tape that will help our listeners get a really intimate sense of what their work and lives are like.Eli Chen
Each producer is only deeply involved in a couple of stories per season. So I’m excited to hear the finished episodes my co-workers have been working on over the past weeks, especially the episodes Eli and Jacob are hosting.Brian Gutierrez
The story I’m hosting focuses on an Olympic athlete recovering from long haul Covid-19. She gave us an incredible window into her life by recording audio diaries of her training and recovery. So it’s going to be an extremely intimate, human story about what it feels like to solve a medical mystery, recover from Covid-19, and chase the biggest dream of your life, all at the same time. We’re collaborating with ESPN for this story, so that adds even more special sauce. I’m also working on a quirky science story about cicadas and a behind-the-scenes look at the engineer who makes possible some of the wildest Nat Geo photographs.Jacob Pinter