Listening to History

Podcast for Distraction

Every morning, during my walk, I listen to a podcast.  These audio gems can be a great distraction and they help me prepare for the challenges or monotony I will most likely face each day.   Needless to say, I do not listen to anything related to current events.  Right now, my favorite podcast is that of a grumpy old guy talking about sports with a cohort of recurring guests.  I don’t watch sports, so why do I listen? For some reason, I find humor and a sense of calmness when listening to the quirks of the characters and conversations they present.  This is what I believe makes a conversation focused podcast great. 

So as expected, I enjoyed the first assignment this past week.  The task was to listen to The Ouija Broads a podcast hosted by two Pacific Northwesterners who tell each other strange stories related to regional history.  My selection was Man’s Best Friend, the tale of Meriwether Lewis’s four-legged companion.  Of course, I would choose to listen to a conversation about the Newfoundland dog that traveled with Lewis and Clark on their journey to the Pacific Coast.  While the main topic was Seaman the Newfoundland, the two hosts zigged and zagged while talking about their subject, like most natural conversations often do.  You can tell they have an established friendship and have been working on this podcast a while (this was episode 94) because of how comfortable they seem with each other. 

Similarly, interview podcasts can draw the listener in through conversation. This week I chose to listen to Ben Franklin’s World, a podcast focused on early American history.  My selection was Episode 278: an interview of Sarah Pearsall the author of Polygamy: An Early American History.  The host, Liz Covart, conveys enthusiasm when interviewing guest historians.  A strength of the podcast is how she is able to create an informative discussion between her and the guests, by providing historical context and substantive questions.  In contrast, the niche podcast was my least favorite category of the week.  I chose a selection from the Memory Palace, which is a random collection of short stories by Nate DiMeo.  While I enjoyed listening the Story of Maria Barberi, I missed the conversational aspects associated with the first two podcasts. 

When it came time to attempt to create my own podcast, I really began to appreciate the skill and work that goes into producing high quality big budget podcasts.  Serial was the first podcast I listened to that focused on story telling with high production value.  The host drew you into each episode with the effective use of music, story pace, interview placement, and thought-provoking commentary.  The same can be said for Bundyville, where journalist Leah Sottile skillfully recounts the tale of Clive Bundy, an extremist who participated in an armed uprising against the Federal Government over cattle grazing rights.   

To create my own 6-minute podcast I used the iPhone Anchor application.  This is a very user-friendly tool that easily allowed me to record, edit, and arrange my content.  However, a far from intimidating setup, I found that speaking into my phone did not prevent nervous stumbles.  After completing the task, I appreciated how easy it was to publish the podcast to Spotify using Anchor.  I’ll admit to being a tech novice and this made adding the audio content to my webpage quite simple.  Be warned, my voice is not radio ready, but I hope you enjoy the attempt. (Pictures of the experience available on the Podcast page.)

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