View of a studio at WDET in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Karolle Rabarison)

Your local podcasting community is out there — invite it into your newsroom

By on June 19, 2018

This post is part of a series contributed by MJ Bear Fellows, journalists under 30 who are driving innovation in digital news. Applications for the 2018 MJ Bear Fellowship are open through June 28.

No matter where you live, there’s a podcasting community living right alongside you and you might not even know it.

I’ve spent the past year interviewing podcasters who create audio content between the coasts, and two things are true of almost everyone I’ve chatted with:

  1. They’re learning to make their podcasts (and sometimes report) on the fly.
  2. They feel isolated in their creation and want to meet other people doing the work.

This seems like a great opportunity for local newsrooms to entrench themselves with an ever-growing community of independent podcasters, offer resources and actively lift up the voices of those they cover.

But how to do this? Whether your newsroom actively creates audio products or specializes in another medium, all newsrooms are in the business of finding experts and getting answers, editing and honing content, capturing a wide audience and bringing communities together.

Local podcasters, in turn, can help bring new eyes to newsroom content, be helpful partners in reporting and offer deeper insight into what community members think and feel.

Here are four ideas on how to bring local podcasters into the newsroom fold.

Make a directory of local podcasts

If you want to help foster a community, you first have to find out who is a part of it. When I’m looking for podcasts for my newsletter, I usually turn to Twitter, Reddit, Facebook searches and targeted Google searches to find podcasts made in a certain area or city. As you do so for the community your newsroom is a part of, why not make a directory of those that you find? This could be published on your website or your newsroom could host a Facebook group for local podcasters, helping them connect with each other. See Podcasts In Color for inspiration.

Host a ‘How to start a podcast’ event

Like I said, news organizations are great at finding experts and getting answers — and local podcasters (or those interested in podcasting) want information. Why not bring the two together? Host a panel event with four or five local podcasters, or perhaps your own audio producers, to discuss the tips of the trade and what tools podcasters will need to be successful. At this event, you could also coalesce other local resources that might be of use, such as recording studios or the local library for interested parties to meet while mingling before and after the event. I organized such an event at St. Louis Public Radio back in 2016, and it brought in a whole different demographic of creators than I’d ever seen before.

Open podcasting office hours

This idea might be a heavier lift for newsrooms that don’t currently have audio producers or audio equipment readily on hand. But for those that do, I would love to see more newsrooms open up “office hours” for podcast training, whether it’s from in-house experts or community leaders in the field. There are so many wonderful local podcasts out there that could really shine with a little more polish on the audio production side. If your newsroom has experts in this area, why not open up the opportunity for those experts to share what they know with the community? It’s something that could even be monetized or done as a roundtable. For inspiration, see WAMU’s The Pod Shop, a recently-announced opportunity that supports emerging podcast talent.

Start a podcast listening happy hour

I distinctly remember when ‘Serial’ came out in 2014, and everyone seemed to be listening to it at the same time. I had to chuckle when it seemed like a rash of listening parties featuring different types of cereal cropped up. You don’t have to be that tongue-in-cheek, but why not start a monthly — or weekly, if you’re ambitious — listening event for locally-produced podcasts or a nationally-produced podcast that ties into your newsroom’s local coverage? It’s a great way for the podcast-interested to meet each other and is relatively low-cost. You could combine it with efforts in a local podcasting Facebook group as well. See the New York Times’ Podcast Club for inspiration.