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Boy's dinosaur email to NPR goes viral, leads to San Diego Natural History Museum

Posted at 7:12 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 10:35:45-05

SAN DIEGO — SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- An 8-year-old boy sent an email to National Public Radio asking why they're not reporting on more "cool stuff," setting off a viral response that made its way to a San Diego paleontologist.

"I wrote it because I thought the news was too dark and it did not cover too much good stuff as I hoped," 8-year-old Leo Shidla told ABC 10News.

Rest assured, the Minneapolis boy is probably not the target audience of NPR’s "All Things Considered.” But the long-running news program is a favorite of his parents while they're driving, and Leo is often along for the ride.

"And day after day my wife and I hear, 'Why are we only talking about COVID or politics?'” said Robert Shidla, Leo's Father.

"Why aren't there dinosaurs?" Leo quickly interjecting, "Good stuff!"

Robert continuing, "And so, the feedback from my wife was, to Leo, 'You know, maybe you should tell people your ideas.'"

Which is exactly what Leo did, sending an email to the local NPR station, pointing out -- with the pure honesty of a child -- the true meaning of “all” things considered.

Leo wrote, in part: "I never hear much about nature or dinosaurs or things like that. Maybe you should call your show ‘Newsythings considered,’ since I don't get to hear about all the things. Or please talk more about dinosaurs and cool things."

An NPR producer posted Leo's note to Twitter with a promise to do better.

Leo’s dad said, at first, "We had a little bit of a laugh on it. And then we just kind of watched as within 24 hours, 30,000 people had liked that."

The response had gone viral, even Hillary Clinton tweeting, "What's the plan for course correction here, NPR? Asking for some grandchildren."

For NPR, the search was on to make amends.

"Leo, for you, I think one of the coolest dinosaur fossils UCMP has is Dilophosaurus," said paleontologist Dr. Ashley Poust, a research associate at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

"I was connected up with Leo through a long chain of other scientists," explained Dr. Poust, leading to a meeting between the two via Zoom with a focus on cool stories about dinosaurs, that Leo loves to share.

"I know that dilophosaurus was not like it was in the movies," said Leo, referring to the film “Jurassic Park,” which depicts a dilophosaurus spitting into a man's eyes. "It did not have frills, nor spit venom, and it was about 20 feet tall."

Leo's father then pointed to his son's hand and asks, "What are you holding in your hand right now?”

Leo realizes, "A dilophosaurus."

Dr. Poust, sharing the exchange via Zoom, laughs and exclaims, "Ah, man, quick draw!"

A learning adventure and friendship sparked by an honest email from a child, and adults who were listening.

"I'm an introvert kind of, I kind of stick to myself," said Leo. "But then, once you spice me up, I'm all out there!"

Leo's father says the family travels a lot and one their favorite things to do is visit museums.

Dr. Poust extended an invitation to the family to be sure to visit the San Diego Natural History Museum should they take a trip to Southern California.