“Walk in an oral historian, walk out a podcaster…”

by Susan Davis, workshop leader for Podcasting I and II offered at the OHA annual meeting in Minneapolis. For more information on registration, see OHA 2017.


Since February I have been to Armenia, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Jamaica, Australia, Senegal and Mozambique to teach workshops on podcasting. Each of these countries, while in differing states of readiness, has a long and important oral tradition and a lively radio culture. The US State Department sent me on a world tour to help move historians, journalists, activists and radio producers into the age of podcasting.  They are gathering voices to tell the stories of emerging from the Soviet shadow, rebuilding after a long and brutal civil war, educating disabled children, legalizing marijuana, establishing rights for original peoples, providing jobs and catching fish. This adventure happened after nearly 22 years in Public Radio, first with Marketplace, then Soundprint, NPR and North Carolina Public Radio.

I produced a daily show for years before turning to teaching audio story-telling and training podcasters full time. Listen, there are more than 300,000 podcasts available on iTunes. 299,000 of those are AWFUL. But the other 1000 are fantastic (give or take 50.) Of the 20 most downloaded podcasts on iTunes, more than half are made by radio professionals. Yes, they have a platform for promotion, but more importantly, they know what listeners want and like, and they know how to tell a sometimes long, possibly complicated story using the inherent intimacy of audio. And that is exactly what I know. And I am anxious to share it with you. You don’t need a plan, just access to recordings, or an idea about recordings, we’ll do the rest int he workshop. Walk in an oral historian, walk out a podcaster. I’ll give you everything you need to know to go home and start the next day (or, rope your grad students into starting the next day!)



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