At WFPL, we make audio — from quick newscast spots and longer radio features to podcasts and special projects.
We also do a lot of listening.
So, we thought to help ring in the new year, we’d share some of what our reporters are listening to, both inside and outside of the office.
WFPL Arts and Culture Reporter Ashlie Stevens:
Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Love and Radio. It’s a little racier than most public radio shows that we air, but I’m a big fan of the first-person narratives in the series. They start off pretty basic but blossom into in-depth stories that I talk about for weeks. A good starting point is the episode “Photochemical.” The editing and music are beautiful, and while the subject takes an unexpected turn, it never feels unsavory. I think it speaks to the power of letting people tell their own stories,
WFPL Economy Reporter Roxanne Scott:
My favorite listen is Modern Love — stories about love from the poignant to the embarrassing. Also they’re only 20 minutes each, so I can binge listen at the laundromat.
WFPL Health Reporter Lisa Gillespie:
I like Mogul.
Associate Producer Kyeland Jackson:
The New York Times’ The Daily from Nov. 16, 2017: I like this piece for holding the Obama administration accountable for drone strikes. Investigations and coverage of the strikes was not thoroughly publicized, and the impact on innocent civilians like the one in this podcast is often devastating — with no acknowledgment afterwards.
The Journey: This piece was grounding in allowing the person at the center of the story to recount his journey himself. The story is intense, sickening and real, and it gave me perspective on the struggles some immigrants face to escape persecution.
This American Life: “Harper High“: This was my favorite piece, a deep dive into how a school of devoted teachers and students can be devastated by rampant violence. I was drawn into the story and felt for the students, teachers and counselors involved.
Jake Ryan, Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting:
Yeah, so, this isn’t easy. I’ve listened to a lot of great stuff this year — a lot of it from our team. Ashlie Stevens’ piece about the guy who restores old pipe organs is one of my all-time favorites. Lisa Gillespie’s ride-along with an EMT to examine an overdose scene is also great. Laura Ellis and Jonese Franklin’s ridiculous stake-out of an urban fox is a masterpiece. Benny Becker’s profile of Mackie Branham Jr. is important, intense and unforgettable. Eleanor Klibanoff’s profile of white supremacist Matthew Heimbach is also important. And Erica Peterson’s look at the history of streetcars was fuel for any transit nerd.
BUT … enough about us. In-house audio aside, some of my favorite listens this year include:
- Homecoming by Gimlet: It’s fiction, but it’s an awesome, suspenseful story that shows how visual a nice piece of audio can be.
- Ear Hustle by Radiotopia: It’s produced, in part, by inmates at San Quentin State Prison. Really cool look at a life few get to see or experience, but one that so many are fascinated by. A must-listen episode: “The Shu” (it’s about solitary confinement)
- I spent a lot of time this year listening to old This American Life pieces by Scott Carrier and Sean Cole — both of whom I consider to be unmatched. Scott Carrier’s “The Neighborhood” is an all-time favorite listen — it’s fun, it’s rambling, it’s relatable.
But my all-time favorite listen has to be The Memory Palace. This is a podcast, yes, but each episode is short-ish, and the production sweeps you up and takes you into the past. The content is real, but it can feel like a dream. A good place to start is with “The Numbers” — it’s about the draft during the Vietnam War. It’s from last year, but I heard it for the first time earlier this year and it hit me hard. (All of the Memory Palace’s episodes aren’t this intense.)
Laura Ellis, WFPL audio producer
I loved this session at the Third Coast International Audio Festival, and now it’s been released as part of the The Third Coast Pocket Conference podcast. 99% Invisible producer Delaney Hall talks about research and narrative techniques that bring historical stories and characters to life.
In preparation for this year’s eclipse, I listened to the “Rapture Chasers” episode of Every Little Thing, and from that I learned that people experiencing eclipse totality make noises a lot like people who are… doing something a lot more intimate.
Closer to home, I loved the Louisville ghost stories Ashlie Stevens put together around Halloween! And Jake Ryan and RG Dunlop’s profile of R.G. Williams, a TARC driver with an unforgettable back story.
Jonese Franklin, WFPL digital editor
I listen to RuPaul’s podcast, “What’s the Tee?” on a regular basis. It’s quintessential RuPaul — smart, funny and irreverent — and I enjoy it so much that I often re-listen to episodes. I also sometimes listen to WTF with Marc Maron, Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin, and Another Round.
As for homemade goods, I do a lot of listening and there was much to love this year. I can’t mention it all but I really enjoyed Ashlie Steven’s ghost story series. I don’t usually care for scary stuff but listening to people tell personal stories in their own words was pretty cool. There were several installments of Curious Louisville that I just loved, including Was The High-Five Really Invented In Louisville?, and of course, the Fairly Curious series that followed producer Laura Ellis as she lived at the Kentucky State Fair for an entire week.
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting’s podcast, The Pope’s Long Con, is an amazing listen. Solid reporting and production, and I couldn’t be more proud to work every day with the folks who made it.
And finally, I couldn’t list my favorite listens without mentioning what is now referred to as “Fox Day.” To be fair, this story was produced in 2016, not 2017. But I did listen to it several times throughout the year so I’m counting it. Fox News: Hot On The Tail Of Louisville’s Urban Foxes provided me the opportunity to tag along with Laura Ellis while she reported on an increase in fox sightings in Louisville. It was and remains my favorite day working in radio.
Stephen George, executive editor, Louisville Public Media
I’m going to start in-house, which is where I do the most listening: Tara Anderson’s podcast Five Things is a brilliant take on the long-form personal interview. It inverts a stodgy old idea — that our lives shouldn’t be defined by stuff — by starting with a straightforward question: What are the five things that are most important to you? The objects are often small, silly or sentimental — but every one offers a view into the subject’s life, and they prompt twists you won’t see coming. Tara’s style — super relaxed and warm but also probing — drives each interview. Good place to start: the episode with Kentucky writer Silas House.
Next up, also one of ours: The Guestlist with Sean Cannon. You probably know him as a DJ on WFPK, in which case you also know he’s a stellar interviewer. Sean is skilled at turning conversations in unexpected directions without losing his guests, which isn’t easy. The Guestlist is intimate and hilarious and often delightfully weird; it’s like meeting someone for the first time and realizing within five minutes you’ll be friends for life. Good place to start: the episode with Ethan Hawke.
And one more from LPM: The Pope’s Long Con. This is the first podcast from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, and it’s groundbreaking. This an important piece of accountability journalism about a public official, told as a serialized narrative over five episodes.
Here’s one I’ve geeked out about: More Perfect. It’s a podcast from the Radiolab team that digs into how Supreme Court decisions — some decades old — affect our daily lives. The stories are told conversationally (like Radiolab) but with fewer production flourishes. SCOTUS can be difficult to follow; this podcast breaks down important decisions and draws direct lines to today. Start with “Object Anyway,” which tells the story of Louisvillian James Batson, whose case prompted “the Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to prevent race-based jury selection, but may have only made the problem worse.”
Finally, the Longform Podcast. It’s just long conversations with writers (and hosts and producers) of influence about craft, art, life and all sorts of other things that make long interviews worth the time.