- Special Projects
Chad Blair: Aloha everybody and welcome to another installment of the Pod Squad. As always, Chad Blair for Honolulu Civil Beat. Today we are talking about podcasting, something that Civil Beat is hoping to branch into more aggressively.
Joining me is a special guest. His name is Ben Adair, he’s from Los Angeles. Ben tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ben Adair: Sure. Thanks Chad.
My name is Ben Adair and I’m a long-time public radio producer, reporter, editor and show runner. I’ve worked in audio (what we used to call radio now we call it audio) for the last 15-16 years, doing everything from real basic associate producer, cutting tape, to reporting all over the world doing foreign correspondence, to creating local and national shows, to running shows. I was running an editorial on Marketplace, the three business radio shows.
For the last few years, my work has really focused more on new technologies and emerging platforms, so for the last year or so that’s meant a lot of podcasting. Podcasting has gotten so big and has become such a huge industry in the United States and in the world there’s been a lot of interest in people creating new podcasts.
Blair: And that interest is definitely at the heart of why Patti Epler, my editor-in-chief at Civil Beat, is here today along with Jessica Terrell, who’s helping us take the lead on podcasting. Patti tell us, what are your plans? We’re springing some news on some folks here for podcasting on Civil Beat.
Patti Epler: We are! Civil Beat really wants to get into podcasting as another way to engage readers and people in what we do here in the community. So we’ve asked Ben here to help us put together a podcasting team. We’ve teamed up also with PRX, which is a national public radio and public media distributor of podcasts and they’re going to help us as well with our project.
Blair: Do we have a timeline or is it too soon to talk about that?
Epler: Well Jessica and April and I are working busily on the first podcast.
I should note that April Estrellon, who has been your producer for so long now, Chad, has been promoted to multimedia producer. And so, it’s just us right now but we hope to have our first show done later in the summer/early fall.
Blair: Terrific, and the third member of the “Pod Team,” that’s just what I’m going to call you guys, Jessica what’s your interest in podcasting? By the way, I always think you have a great set of pipes as we say in radio (now we say in audio). What’s your interest in podcasting?
Jessica Terrell: I’ve always loved listening to podcasts and radio. I think I agree with all of my friends in their early 30s who really love podcasting. It’s a really immersive way to get into a story right now. You can fit really interesting longer stories into what you’re doing when you’re running around and dealing with the rest of your life.
Blair: Why is it so popular right now, it seems like everybody is trying to branch into this. Is this just a fad or is this something here to stay?
Adair: It’s something that took a lot of people by surprise. So people have been podcasting since 2005 or 2004 before the iPhone even, when people just had iPods and that’s where the name comes from. So people have been doing it for many many, many years and it wasn’t until when “Serial” came out, that was the first huge, huge hit for podcasting.
Blair: Brief explanation on what Serial was?
Adair: Sure, “Serial” was an offshoot of “This American Life.” It was a 12-episode season that focused on one story — one murder — that happened in Baltimore, Maryland, over 10 years ago (over 12 years ago now). It had the reporter, Sarah Koenig, really diving deep into this case and really finding out, did the person who was convicted of the murder actually do the murder? Is that person innocent or guilty?
And there were a couple of things that happened right before that. Apple made a podcasting app on everyone’s iPhones. You used to have to go to the iTunes store and download it, but Apple in whatever iOS update came out and made that a mandatory app, so people could find it automatically. At the same time we had faster networks and you were able to download an hour-long podcast really fast on your phone. And then “Serial” came out as this huge hit. It was the right story at the right time and place and it became this huge, huge hit and podcasting went from being this niche industry to now the latest reports are over 20-25 percent of Americans listen to a podcast at least once a month.
Blair: Wow! Jessica what do you listen to? What kind of podcasts are you particularly fond of?
Terrell: I listen to a range of podcasts. “The Moth” is always one of my favorites, and I used to list to “Stuff You Missed in History Class,” which is quirky recap of strange stories. And then I use my podcasting app to listen to radio shows that I missed, so shows that you’d normally hear driving in your car, I can now listen to while walking home.
Blair: Patti, I have to ask you because you’re like me, we’re old school, we come from a print background and here we are now in an online news world. You seem excited about this new platform, which has caught me by surprise, because I’m worried a little bit, myself, I mean, can I teach an old dog a new tricks? But you seem passionate about this.
Epler: I am, Chad. I’m really excited to be learning a whole new way of telling stories because as we’re learning from Ben it’s very different from just writing a print story — well, as you know because you come from a radio background.
Blair: Excuse me, it’s “audio” now Patti.
Epler: Oh audio that’s right.
So it’s cool. We’re learning a lot about how you tell a story, how you build scenes, how to put reflection and thoughtfulness into it. I think it will be really really good for Civil Beat’s audience.
Blair: Ben can we get an example of your work? Is there something that you can just play for us right now, 45 seconds — a minute of something that you’ve done?
Adair: Sure sure. So I do two things in my career, I help other people make podcasts and I have my own podcast that I do as well. The last big project that I worked on like this was working with a company called The Center for Investigative Reporting and they have a show called “Reveal,” a podcast and now a public radio show that’s actually broadcast on almost 300 public radio stations around the country. I helped create that show for them and we ended up winning a Peabody award for just the pilot that we produced.
I also do my own podcast, which is a podcast called “First Time Last Time,” which is stories about the first time people do things and the last time they do different things. For example I’ve had a bank robber on the show talking about the first time and the last time he robbed a bank.
Blair: We heard that one the other day, Jess and I and April, it was great!
Adair: I’ll just put it this way, it’s not exactly for a family audience.
The excerpt I want to play for you is a story that I produced with an artist named Bettina Hubby and it’s talking about the first time she died. She had a medical emergency and at one point was medically dead for three minutes, so this is an excerpt from that.
(“First Time Last Time” audio)
Blair: Wow that is so cool! Can we do stories like that, Patti?
Epler: We can, Chad. In fact, you will actually help out with this.
Blair: Is April my boss?
Epler: She is.
Blair: I’ll work for April. She’s tough though, I got to tell you.
You know, we could talk a lot longer about this but let’s try and share something that’s come up out of the training with Ben that has been providing, particularly for April and Jess and Patti. What’s the main goal, what’s something that you always want to accomplish in a podcast, the primary mission?
Adair: So the main thing when you’re telling stories for radio that’s different from when you’re telling stories for print is that the way you’re telling the story has to be very, very simple. Your narrative can’t jump around. You can’t jump around in scenes, logically everything has to make sense. When you’re telling a story you really need to go from A to B to C to D to E and bring the audience along with you on that journey. It has to be a journey of discovery, it has to be journey that’s rooted in stories and scenes, so a lot of anecdotes, a lot of going different places and getting a sense of place, whether it’s through the person you’re talking to in their voice or ambient sounds that you pick up along the way. Everything has to be very rooted in story and in place.
Blair: Well Jess and Patti, that’s a high bar, what do you think of doing this?
Terrell: It’s an adjustment. I think it’s going to take a little while to get used to going around and having giant headphones on. It’s a bit different from being a print reporter, I think, but I’m excited. It’s fun and we’re going off on a new journey.
Epler: But the great thing about Hawaii is, what a perfect place to do this, right? Talking about scene and story and all sorts of really cool things that happen here that will resonate with not only local Hawaii audiences, but also on the mainland. We’re sort of a microcosm of things that are going on elsewhere, but we also have the beauty and the environment and just the really cool things that happen here.
Adair: This is what really attracted me to this project to be honest. Once I started talking with Patti and Jess about the types of stories, all the different stories that you come across that get very, very little attention on the mainland. You know, people on the mainland think of Hawaii as a place to vacation and they don’t think of it as a place that’s really rich with stories and rich with important issues that are relevant to everyone. So as we’re producing this we’re thinking very much that this is aimed at a national audience who doesn’t know much about Hawaii other than what they read in tourist brochures or on the tourism websites. There’s just so many exciting and so many rich stories to tell here.
Blair: I think that’s a good place to stop.
By the way, I’ve been inspired to add a musical bed to my podcasting. I’m going to give you a little tease of it right now I hope you won’t mind.
(Ambient music playing)
This has been another Pod Squad with Chad Blair and Honolulu Civil Beat. I want to thank my guests Jess Terrell.
Terrell: Thanks Chad.
Blair: Ben Adair.
Adair: Thanks Chad.
Blair: And my boss, Patti Epler. What do you think about the music bed Patti, is it going to work?
Epler: It seems a little scary for you Chad. You’re more a happy cheerful guy and that seems kind of spooky.
Blair: OK alright, I’ll turn it off now, sorry.
Alright everybody, take care and aloha.