I ran across a list of recommended Black podcasts yesterday from Blavity, a lifestyle website catering to Black millenials. A few questions arose as I scrolled the list.
- How is it possible I’ve not heard of some of these pods?
- How many lists do I see about Black podcasts a month? ( I dunno. It feels like 1 or 2. )
- How many lists do I see about podcasts helmed by women? ( Maybe 1 or 2 as well?)
- How many of those podcasts are ever mentioned in my favorite podcast newsletters, blogs and podcasts about podcast? (Usually the same 3 or 4).
- Why does this disparity exist? And what else am I missing?
- Where are the Latino podcasts in the critical eye and on the iTunes, Stitcher or other podcast charts? Heck, where is that representation in public radio?
- Where are the Asian-American pods?
- Why am I only thinking of American podcasts?
- How well represented is the LGBT community?
- Wait…do most podcasts I listen to hail from from the Northeast and West coast? They do.
Clearly, podcasts and other online audio exists either for or by diverse groups of people. And niche content may not be ideal viral fodder. But why aren’t specific voices part of the larger critical and popular conversation?
Discussions centered on issues of representation can deteriorate quickly. So I’ve decided to take a look at the least controversial topic on my list first and work backwards. Where are the podcasts with point of view I hold near and dear: The American South?
The Moth is a charting and critically acclaimed podcast and live series. George Dawes Green, The Moth’s founder, is from Georgia. He created an experience centered around a feel of gathering and telling stories by porch light, says The Moth:
George wanted to recreate, in New York, the feeling of sultry summer evenings in his native Georgia, where he and his friends would gather on his friend Wanda’s porch to share spellbinding tales. There was a hole in the screen which let in moths that were attracted to the light, and the group started calling themselves The Moths. The first New York Moth event was held in George’s living room, but word spread fast, and the events soon moved to cafes and clubs throughout the city. Audiences are drawn to the stories, like moths to a flame.
How southern is that? The Moth still shares incredible stories. But now its southern voice is one among a global chorus of tales.That’s fair. I’m happy to see the project succeed and sustain itself for nearly 20 years. Where are the other southern projects?
One can make the case that the Alton Browncast, a pod helmed by yet another Georgia boy, could have qualified in the past. I wouldn’t. Not enough gravy on ’em biscuits to count.
So what, then?
It’s hard to create great audio. On Current’s The Pub NPR’s Eric Nuzum states that it takes two people three months to create one show (He says it at about the 28 minute mark).
What he’s talking about applies to narrative non-fiction programming, I think. I’m not sure. More on that later.
It’s time consuming and expensive to produce the quality audio we see topping the iTunes charts and populating the podcast enthusiast/critic blogs, newsletters and Twitter conversations. Who has the time to create that content?
Who has access to the tools to create that content and what percentage of them are able to actually produce great material? It is much easier, though not easy, to create roundtable discussions, interview shows and gossip rundowns which take less editing, sound production, interviews, gas, gear, etc.
Having said that, I think that there are some southern non-narrative non fiction podcasts that are getting skipped over along with the narrative pieces. I’ll list some of my favorites below. The Listening’s first podcast is going to tackle this subject. I’ll need interview subjects. I’ve already talked with Sidewalk Radio’s Gene Kansas, Authentic South’s Tanner Latham and I’ve got Neighbors’ Jakob Lewis scheduled for next week. That list is awfully male and awfully white. I’ve reached out to others for a more diverse palate but haven’t heard back from anyone yet. Y’all have any recommendations?
We’ll see what happens. By the way I realize how Atlanta-centric this list is. Not very diverse, right? But this ain’t easy. What shows am I missing?
Gravy – Hosted by Tina Antolini
Gravy shares stories of the changing American South through the foods we eat. Gravy showcases a South that is constantly evolving, accommodating new immigrants, adopting new traditions, and lovingly maintaining old ones. It uses food as a means to explore all of that, to dig into lesser-known corners of the region, complicate stereotypes, document new dynamics, and give voice to the unsung folk who grow, cook, and serve our daily meals.
Neighbors – Hosted by Jakob Lewis
From Nashville, TN Neighbors is a show where next door hits home by Jakob Lewis. It tells stories of ordinary people that connect us to others and ourselves.
Switchyards – Hosted and Produced by Clay Bolton
The Podcast highlights different aspects of the city as told by passionate and interesting Atlantans.
Errthang Show – Hosted by Al Letson & Willie Evans Jr.
Errthang is… everything, storytelling, radio drama, pop culture reviews, interviews with some of the most interesting people on the planet and social commentary. In short, a variety show with Al as the chief storyteller/host.
Sidewalk Radio – Hosted by Gene Kansas
Produced in partnership with AM 1690, The Voice of the Arts, Atlanta.
Creator & Host, Gene Kansas, sits down with artists, architects, designers, developers, planners, preservationists, chefs, skateboarders, civil rights icons, educators and even entomologists from time to time. These are the ones making things happen, the leaders shaping the new cultural continuum.
Revision Path – Hosted by Maurice Cherry
Revision Path is a weekly interview show that focuses on showcasing Black graphic designers, web designers, and web developers. Each week, we explore the stories, processes, experiences, insights, and creative inspirations of these awesome creators from all over the world.
Authentic US (Formerly Authentic South) – Hosted by Tanner Latham
Authentic South was produced in partnership with WFAE, Charlotte.
Authentic US is a sound-rich, storytelling platform that explores our culture through food, art, music, land, literature and characters. The nationally-distributed platform first launched in the Spring of 2013 as Authentic South.
Backstory – Hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh.
BackStory is a public radio program & podcast that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what’s going on today.
Don’t Be Scared – Hosted by David Dennis, Jason “Jah” Lee and Danielle “Danni” Canada
Produced by PodcastOne
“Bossip Presents: Don’t Be Scared” brings to life Bossip.com’s, the premier online destination for African American popular culture and entertainment news, hard-hitting, humorous commentary. “DBS” is a viciously funny conversation between Bossip’s awkward, quirky and at times terrifyingly honest trio…