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Interview with Kayleen Bell, Host and Producer, Talking PFAS podcast

06 March, 2020

Kayleen Bell is an independent journalist, host and producer of the internationally supported podcast ‘Talking PFAS’. The podcast was a finalist at the 2019 Australian Podcast Awards. She interviews experts to educate and inform the public, media and policymakers of the many challenges, concerns and complexities of PFASs. Kayleen has shared people’s stories who have been negatively impacted by PFAS contamination and reported on a few of the 28 defence sites being investigated. Kayleen can be reached @TalkingPFAS.


When did you first decide to be a writer and podcaster of PFAS-related news and information and why?

It was just after I finished my journalism degree at UTS in late 2017. I went to stay in Nelson Bay and on the way up from Sydney, one property caught my eye – it had a large banner on it which said #stopdefencepoisoningus. I started researching this hashtag and found a lot of information posted by residents and others who have been affected by the issue of PFAS contamination caused by the use of firefighting foam. I have researched PFAS ever since from a national and global perspective. The more I looked into it, the more complex I realised this issue is and how widespread these chemicals are in the Australian environment.


What does a typical day look like for you?

My day usually begins at around 8am. I start my day watching some ABC News while researching PFAS and guests to book for upcoming episodes, responding and sending emails, booking guests. Then I do my other job transcribing medical reports – that takes up a large part of my day. After dinner I usually disappear into my office where I might be working until very late, editing audio for an upcoming episode of the podcast, transcribing interviews, writing a script, or responding to emails.


What have you loved most about being the producer and host of a podcast?

I love that I am getting great experience as a journalist. I love that I get to combine my three favourite things, deep-dive research, audio work, and most importantly getting out into the field and talking with people. I love meeting new people, learning from experts and also being able to share stories from people who have felt invisible. Also, when it comes to research, I love going down a ‘rabbit hole’ and finding something extraordinary and then managing to find a way to communicate that to the public.


How do you go about finding ideas and information for your stories?

With the growing PFAS issue, there is no shortage of guests to interview for the podcast, from residents to scientists and other experts. There’s also a huge trove of source materials available online to research the topic as well. I’ve found one of the best sources of new story ideas has been the network of contacts that I’ve managed to collect since I started looking into the area. I have also found the submissions and transcripts from the public hearings into PFAS are very useful too.


How do press releases help you in your line of work?

Press releases are really helpful to make sure I am not missing any new developments on PFAS in Australia. Besides a few open sources of PFAS articles, many of the PFAS stories in Australia are sadly behind paywalls which makes it difficult for the general public to stay informed. Receiving press releases about PFAS helps me keep my podcast audience up-to-date on the latest developments.

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