2016 was a banner year for Radiotopia. We performed our first live show, ran an hugely successful Podquest competition (look for Ear Hustle this summer!), added three new podcasts, and much more. We are so grateful to our fans for the love and support this year. To give 2016 a proper send-off, we gathered up the ‘Best of 2016’ podcast episode articles published this month, many included Radiotopia episodes. Check out our roundup below and take a listen, or load up our playlist. More audio goodness to come in 2017!
PRX is excited to announce the first cohort ofProject Catapult, an innovative podcast training project for public media stations, made possible by a $1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
The project initially intended to include five stations, but will now total seven. “The final pool of applicants was so strong, we found a way to expand the first Catapult class to seven station teams,” said PRX CEO Kerri Hoffman.
The stations are located across the US, have varying market sizes and represent diverse production teams and topics. They’ll kick things off at the PRX Podcast Garage in Cambridge, MA in January with a podcast bootcamp, and will continue an intensive production sprint for 20 weeks.
The Catapult process will create a professional network of diverse talent across the country, and help the podcasters hone skills in digital content development, audience engagement and monetization. At the end of the curriculum each station, in co-production with PRX, will launch a new, or re-launch an existing, podcast.
PRX has hired Enrico Benjamin as Catapult’s project director. Benjamin is an Emmy award-winning producer with a background in video and digital production, most recently KING-TV in Seattle. During his time at Stanford University, Benjamin was exposed to design thinking, a method that will guide Project Catapult.
“Through this innovative program, we’re pleased to help more stations increase their multimedia production capacity and increase the diversity of voices heard in public media,” said Erika Pulley-Hayes, CPB vice president, radio. “We hope the new podcasts that these stations produce will lay the groundwork for more multimedia content that connects with a broad range of audiences.”
“Project Catapult is an ambitious first step,” said PRX CEO Hoffman. “We are investing in station capacity so they can make digital content that is sustainable and relevant, both locally and beyond.”
Project Catapult will culminate in an open listening session in Boston in May to show off the work and progress to date.
Project Catapult Stations
Inflection Point, KALW – San Francisco, CA Extraordinary women are leading the change in our world join the KALW team to tell their stories–to help us understand a moment when women are embracing their power as never before, and to inspire a future generation of women leaders.
Versify, Nashville Public Radio – Nashville, TN Versify is a podcast with a twist on storytelling: Nashville poets travel to neighborhoods across the city, hear stories from people they’ve never met, and then capture them in verse.
Us & Them, West Virginia Public Radio Stories of people on either side of the fault lines that divide Americans, from culture wars, to education and religion, to the basic beliefs about what defines Americans in a troubled time. From DuPont Award-winning producer Trey Kay.
We Live Here, St. Louis Public Radio – St. Louis, MO We Live Here empowers you by untangling policy and systems so you can better understand how race and class influence everything from what we learn to how long we live.
Que Pasa Midwest, WNIN – Evansville, IN Whether you speak Spanish, English, or both, come along on a rich journey of discovering El Sueño Americano, the many definitions and faces of the American Dream with Que Pasa Midwest.
Out of Blocks, WYPR – Baltimore, MD Each episode is a collage of life-stories from a single city block. The episodes are rich with the sounds of people in their own spaces, talking about life on their own terms. The soundscape is enhanced when the natural sounds of the block are fused with an original musical score. There is no host; rather, the people on the block are the hosts.
Second Wave, KUOW – Seattle, WA Thanh Tan takes the listener along on a quest to better understand her Vietnamese American identity and to explore the heartbreak and triumph of refugees who fled Southeast Asia en masse 40 years ago after the Vietnam War to pursue new lives in the United States.
About PRX PRX is shaping the future of public media content, talent and technology. PRX is a leading creator and distributor, connecting audio producers with their most engaged, supportive audiences across broadcast, web and mobile. A fierce champion of new voices, new formats, and new business models, PRX advocates for the entrepreneurial producer. PRX is an award-winning media company, reaching millions of weekly listeners worldwide. For over a dozen years, PRX has operated public radio’s largest distribution marketplace, offering thousands of audio shows including This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour and Reveal. In 2015, PRX opened the Podcast Garage, a community recording studio and educational hub dedicated to the craft of audio storytelling. Follow us on Twitter at @prx.
This month, I’m featuring stories about dreams: the tale of a woman who dreams of a bigger apartment, the consequences of a jail system that puts dreams on hold, and a mother-daughter team helping each other to fulfill lifelong ambitions.
A young woman lives in a New York City apartment so cramped there’s no room for a couch. She doesn’t even need to get out of bed to open the door. So, why wouldn’t she participate in a bizarre science experiment to “biggerize” her digs? After all, as the story’s protagonist exclaims, “there’s nothing on the lease about ‘biggerization!’”
This is the situation in “Quadraturin,” a captivating piece of audio fiction from producer Jon Earle and actress Emma Wiseman, based on a short story by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. The piece won Best New Artist at the 2016 Sarah Awards.
Earle and Wiseman use scenes and natural sounds to great effect, turning the sonic apartment into an imaginary stage on which the story unfolds. In the booming audio fiction genre, it’s especially nice to hear a story that relies on smart staging and careful dialogue instead of the ‘found recording’ crutch, often used in other pieces, to drive narrative. To understand this crutch in the visual world, imagine a sudden plethora of TV shows with plots hinging on faux-archival videos.
The Los Angeles jail system is the largest in the country, with 17,000 people incarcerated at any given given time. The consequences are explored in “Off The Block,” a six-part series from KCRW. Bail, mental health, and jailhouse weddings are some of the topics covered in the series, which explains that even a short stint in the system can have numerous lasting impacts.
The episodes are short—most well under 10 minutes—and not an exhaustive investigation into the issues presented. But the series does a good job finding characters whose experiences and perspectives provide an access point for listeners who aren’t directly impacted by the jail system themselves.
When I listened to this piece I felt like I’d emerged from diving underwater, when the world looks slightly different than it did before the plunge. It’s the mark of a good story, one that shifts your life experience by just a few degrees so everything feels a bit shinier and more surreal.
There are two main stories nestled into one here. First, producer Jessica Ripka tells the story of her mother, Penelope DeWitt, whose creative dreams fell dormant for decades due to fear and insecurity. A car crash renews her interest in pursuing those dreams. Ripka then uses her mother’s story to reflect her own life, how she quit her desk job to pursue a dream career in radio storytelling. This piece represents an important first step towards that dream.
It’s a joy to follow the mother and daughter pair along on their overlapping journey to fulfill lifelong ambitions. Ripka’s piece is funny, surprising, and, perhaps unsurprising given the relationship between producer and subject, very tenderly told.
This piece was produced at the Fall 2016 Transom Story Workshop.
How To Listen to PRX Remix:
Download the PRX Remix app or go to prx.mx and press ‘play’. If you’re a satellite radio kind of person, check out channel 123 on Sirius XM or XM radio. If you’re a traditionalist and stick to the radio dial, check these listings to find Remix on a station near you.
Josh Swartz is the curator of PRX Remix. Email him at email@example.com
We recently wrapped up our Radiotopia 2016 fall fundraiser, and were blown away by the love and support from our fans, both old and new. With every drive, we gain new and important insights into the podcast fundraising universe and our dedicated fanbase. We’re always keen to learn how to best engage with listeners, make a genuine appeal, and secure the funds our shows need to keep creating quality, independent content.
Our fans: Whether they’ve been with us since the beginning, or just started listening…they’re the best.
This campaign taught us just how dedicated, generous and committed our fans truly are. A whopping 80% of our recurring 2015 donors stayed on as part of our active donor community this year. We aimed to steward existing relationships while encouraging steadfast donors to expose friends, partners, siblings and co-workers to the quality craft producing within Radiotopia. It worked!
As a surprise, we rewarded active sustaining members with our second challenge coin, this time Radiotopia themed.
Interestingly, of the 6,300 donors who contributed to this campaign, 64% had never before donated to Radiotopia.
Partnerships: Work together to drive donations.
Last year, we began a tradition of bringing our sponsors into the fundraiser to help provide donor challenges. These partners have become important tools that generate fan excitement and showcase our important corporate sponsors.
This year, Podster Magazine—a digital magazine dedicated to podcasts—jump-started the fundraiser by offering to chip in $10,000 if we hit 1,000 donors in the first two days. When we missed our goal by a few hours, our fans sprang into action and helped us ultimately secure the challenge funds from Podster (by the way, you can still get a free subscription). A big thank you to Podster!
A few days later, our friends at FreshBooks—who offer cloud-based accounting software for small businesses—issued another key challenge: a $40,000 donation if we snagged another 5,000 donors by the end of the campaign. This helped energize our fans to spread the word to friends and family, allowing us to soar beyond that goal to finish with over 6,000 donors. Thanks again to FreshBooks!
Producer rewards: Engaging, unique and original premiums.
This year, our producers offered up their time and talent to create exclusive, custom reward items that were incredibly popular with donors. Some rewards showcased their creative talents, like the curated mixtape from Song Exploder’s Hrishikesh Hirway (which quickly sold out), and the custom recording from Criminal’s Phoebe Judge.
Others gave lucky fans the opportunity to engage on more a personal level. These included a VIP Dinner with the Kitchen Sisters, one-on-one phone calls with Megan Tan from Millennial, a virtual documentary viewing with team Mortified, a museum tour with Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace… oh, and a wedding ceremony officiated by Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist. Overall, we found the personalized gifts were a great way to way to drive excitement and, sometimes, laughter.
Benefit without the reward: The choice of no gift.
A whopping 40% of donors opted for no reward at all. Despite the long-time association of public media with t-shirts and tote bags, nearly half of our donors opted to support us directly. This ultimately allows our independent producers to keep more of the funds and for Radiotopia to save on fulfillment expenses and benefit more directly from the campaign’s success.
The result: The reach of Radiotopia’s message is impressive (if we do say so ourselves).
We surpassed our original goal of 5,000 donations by over 1,000 people
64% of donors were brand new to our community
The industry average is 20% new donors for any fundraising drive
80% of our sustaining members from last year maintained their monthly commitments
12% of donors who has previously cancelled their recurring donations came back in 2016
We had donors from all 50 states and 73 countries/territories
When I was a little girl, I had a restaurant. It was a playset in my parent’s kitchen, tucked in the corner by a table. Everything about it was plastic and kid-sized. When friends came over, I would take their order, return to my plastic stovetop, and serve them plastic fried eggs. No one complained inside my restaurant, even though they technically never ate anything. Every time I cleared their small, shiny plates, I felt immense pride at feeding my loved ones. Imagination is a skill I never want to lose. That’s why I’m so excited to join PRX as the Community Manager of the Podcast Garage.
I’m a documentary artist who creates and facilitates stories with audio, photography, video, writing, and my own two ears. Over the last few years, I’ve produced stories on my own and at my home NPR station, Rhode Island Public Radio. Working at Brown University, I created a space for storytelling and social change and ran workshops, events, and an editorial team of students. I’ve also collaborated with friends, producers, and musicians on community storytelling projects like a performance of live audio stories spanning birth to death, and a public “living room” for storytelling on a sidewalk in downtown Providence. Sometimes, I just walk around my neighborhood and talk to strangers.
Listening is an act of imagination. That’s why I love audio. When we hear a story, we open up our other senses. We lose the ability to judge the look of things. We form memories out of what happens inside of us. I feel so lucky to be a part of the PRX community, which brings those moments to millions of people.
Until you and I get to meet, here are three other things about me*:
I’ve stealth-camped all over RI and MA.
I can recite the entire pilot’s alphabet.
I have a pet turtle.
*Only two of them are true.
I’ll be spending most of my days at the Podcast Garage. If you haven’t stopped by yet, please do anytime. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll make you my finest plastic fried egg.
Yesterday, RadioPublic released the first versions of its iOS and Android apps (available on Apple iTunes here and Google Play here). RadioPublic’s mission as a Public Benefit Corporation is to “help listeners discover, engage with, and reward the creators of podcasts and other audio.” This is also their strategy and roadmap. The team is starting with discovery, and will be layering in engagement next, followed by rewards — both for producers and listeners themselves. Discovery is at the heart of this first RadioPublic release, and is part of their vision for rethinking radio in the mobile world.
RadioPublic wants to give producers ways to enhance their presence in the RadioPublic app without having to invest in another custom publishing platform, or in one-off features that require real effort with dubious effect. The team has a variety of useful extensions in the works that drive discovery, engagement, and monetization, and a few that are ready for you to take advantage of right now, including gateway episodes, podcast playlists, show endorsements, and series play order. Read about how to get started here.
The app is focusing on curated playlists as one avenue for discovery. The curated episode playlists cover a myriad of topics, activities, moods, genres, artists, publishers, and networks. The team has assembled hundreds of their own, and has invited tastemakers everywhere to use their curatorial expertise and brand to help listeners get to the good stuff.
Each playlist is a feed you can follow, and acts both as a mixtape to listen through, and a collection of jump off points. The playlists live on the web as well, so they’re easy to share, link to, and soon to embed in publishers’ and podcasters’ sites.
Get a deep dive into all the app’s feature on RadioPublic’s blog, and download the app today in iTunes and Google Play.
In this edition of Inside the Podcast Studio, we chat with Honolulu Civil Beat, a team behind the new Offshore podcast. The show tells stories of Hawaii beyond the paradise it’s normally perceived as. Hear from Patti Epler, Offshore‘s editor, about how the show was conceived and what’s next.
On the Podcast
Tell us about Offshore and what makes it unique
Offshore strives to tell stories from Hawaii that will resonate with listeners not only locally but on the mainland too, and even globally. The idea is that Hawaii is not all paradise, not all beaches and waterfalls and rainbows. There’s a very complex cultural mix here, for one thing, and being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean presents many challenges. Residents are constantly trying to figure out how to get along in this small space. Other places can learn from what Hawaii is going through. The show is built around multi-episode seasons, so each season follows a single theme but is broken into 6-10 episodes that drop weekly. Each episode is about 30 minutes.
How did the podcast come to be?
Civil Beat is a small but ambitious nonprofit news website, and we are always looking to innovate and find creative ways to tells stories and engage readers. We are basically print reporters who have moved into the online space and have graduated to multimedia efforts like video and audio. We started podcasting a few years ago with a basic hosted interview show called Pod Squad. But we wanted to find a way to do in-depth, long-form storytelling in an audio format. So we started developing some ideas, eventually connected with PRX and formed this really cool partnership that has become Offshore.
How is the team at Civil Beat structured?
Our reporter/host/producer is Jessica Terrell. She was our education reporter but got drafted into podcasting after a big series in which she spent three months in a homeless village. We produced a 30-minute podcast to supplement the written package (which has now won numerous national and regional awards, by the way). She was the natural pick for this show, and has a great voice that everyone seems to love!
Our assistant producer is April Estrellon. She’s also our exceptionally talented multimedia producer: she works with video, audio, online graphics, and more. She’s also the producer of Pod Squad and about the only person in the newsroom who knows what to do when something goes wrong with our computers or internet.
Our executive producer is Ben Adair who you probably already know. He’s a very talented, very experienced former NPR editor and producer. He’s working with us on the first couple of seasons and has been coming to Hawaii periodically for training. We essentially had little or no experience with audio storytelling, audio equipment or editing tools when we started this project. Ben has been a great teacher and coach.
I’m the editor so I get involved in the overall concept for the show, the seasons, and the episodes. I mainly give advice.
How did you choose the stories for season 1?
Season 1 is called “A Killing in Waikiki.” It looks at race and power through the lens of two killings, 80 years apart. In each case a Native Hawaiian man was shot and killed by a white person in a position of authority. One story is from 1932, about a Navy officer who killed a native Hawaiian man, at a time when the US military basically ran this place. The second story, from 2011, involves a federal State Department agent in town as diplomatic security, again killing a local man. There have been a lot of police killings of people of color on the mainland. The sense is that racial tensions are on the rise, and why can’t we all just get along? Let’s learn from Hawaii, the most multicultural state, which people view as some sort of post-racial paradise.
It’s where every other state is heading as minority populations grow and become dominant. Hawaii has never had a white majority. There is a lot of animosity between all races here, especially involving Native Hawaiians who have been kind of surpassed by other big ethnic groups—the Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans, and whites. It’s very hard to just get along with each other.
What is your thought process behind presenting controversial topics like in season 1?
That’s actually just part of the job, right? As journalists we report on contentious issues and people with problems pretty much every day. And Civil Beat in particular is an investigative and watchdog news outlet. We are very respectful of Hawaiian culture because it is a big part of life here in the islands. We strive to be polite but persistent.
What makes your show ideal for the podcast format?
In-depth audio storytelling works well here. There are so many different voices that you never actually hear—the melting pot is a very real thing with a mix of all sorts of ethnicities and values. The islands have a lot of great stories to tell, whether its the clash of science and culture (coming in Season 2), or being right in the middle of climate change, or trying to become sustainable both in food production and energy. A podcast can be very a powerful medium, especially when examining an issue in depth. It goes beyond what you can do with terrestrial radio or even online written stories.
On the Space
Where do you literally record your work? Can you walk us through the space?
We have a small-ish sound studio called a whisper room that we had shipped over from the mainland. You can never find this stuff in Hawaii so it always has to come from 2,500 miles away. Which is not cheap. Our whisper room arrived in 60 pallets and boxes and our staff put it together over a weekend. Beyond that we work at our desks in the middle of the newsroom.
How do you record your show? What type of equipment does your team use?
We use ProTools for recording and editing in studio, hooked up to an Mbox which hooks to an Apple computer.
We generally use a shotgun mic and a Zoom field recorder.
What can the podcast medium achieve that other media forms like broadcast cannot?
I like the fact that people can listen to podcasts on their own time frame. You don’t have to tune in at a certain time, so the impact is greater. You have people who actually are trying to hear and concentrate on what you’re saying.
What do you think makes a great podcast host? Tell us more about Jessica and what makes her unique
Jessica has a great personality and a great voice for this kind of thing. First and foremost she is an excellent journalist. She has a great interview style and a great way with people, so as a host she comes across as informed friend, someone who is helping you understand what’s going on. Jess has a very interesting backstory too, which is probably what makes her such a good reporter and writer. You can read more about her in the series she did on the homeless called The Harbor. She grew up homeless herself, in a traveling family band. Her dad took them all over the country, all over the world really, in this sort of vagabond lifestyle. She learned a lot about a life that most of us never experience.
How do you envision the future of the podcasting landscape?
I think podcasting will continue to grow as more people discover great shows. Like everything else, the finances will shake out and productions that are obviously putting in effort and energy (and thus resources) will float to the top of the rankings. I think it’s very cool that outfits like RadioPublic are developing the kinds of tools that will enhance the podcast experience for people and make it very useful. That should bring even more listeners and hopefully more revenue potential, so podcast producers can stay in business.
The Heart, made by Kaitlin Prest and Mitra Kaboli, won top honors this weekend as the gold winner for Best Documentary at Third Coast International Festival. The winning piece is an episode called Mariya, which chronicles Mariya Karimjee’s experience with female genital mutilation, how she deals with it personally and broaches a conversation with her family.
Learn more about the event in this NPR interview with festival executive director Johanna Zorn. Zorn said:
“The production is very subtle. It’s mostly music in the background that takes us from, you know, one chapter of her life to the next. And it’s beautifully done. It gives us space to think about what is happening and for us to, perhaps for a very short time, you know, be in her shoes.”
Current also published a press release reporting on all the winners. Huge congratulations to The Heart! Check out more pictures of the event in our Facebook album.
Welcome to the fourth edition of Remix Features! If this is your first time reading, let me explain: PRX Remix is a curated, randomized, never-ending channel featuring the best stories from podcasts, radio shows, and independent producers. As the Remix curator, I’m constantly adding new work to the mix, which is now more than 3,000 stories strong. This blog series brings you some of my new favorites.
This month, I’m sharing three stories about humans interacting with the natural world. They range from a love story between a man and his donkey as they walk across a continent, to the profile of a photographer who specializes in capturing dilapidated farmhouses, to a story of human navigation before the advent of GPS technology.
“Hoofprints On The Heart” from HumaNature
The backstory here is that Jon Dunham walked from Oregon to the tip of South America. An impressive feat? Absolutely. But I wasn’t convinced that his long walk would make for a great story.
I was wrong. The talented producers of HumaNature, a podcast from Wyoming Public Radio, expertly carved a story out of Jon’s experience. It became a love story between the unlikeliest duo: Jon and a donkey he named Judas. Before joining forces with Judas, no one would approach Jon, a lone gringo walking through foreign land. Once Judas was in the picture, though, everyone was excited to meet Jon and his unusual traveling companion. Judas also served as Jon’s guardian angel, showing him which plants were safe to eat and even protecting him from jaguars encroaching on their campsite at night.
The duo trekked together from Mexico to Brazil and, along the way, even managed to cause a widely reported international incident between Panama and Colombia due to a border crossing snafu. Jon and Judas became inseparable, their remarkable relationship the heart of this story.
Alternatingly funny, profound, and heartbreaking, “Hoofprints On The Heart” delivers a road trip tale unlike any you’ve heard before.
In “Farm Noir,” we join KFAI reporter Britta Greene as she follows Patrick Judd on a unique photoprahy expedition. Judd photographs dilapidated farms with an infrared filter—a peculiar hobby, for sure. He’s a big fan of the film noir aesthetic, so he loves the look of the crumbling farms, the beauty of the manmade structures returning to the earth. He’s also motivated by a profound belief in ghosts.
With each camera snap, feeling equal parts excitement and apprehension, he hopes to catch a glimpse of the farmhouses’ former inhabitants.
Greene does a great job channeling the skepticism a listener might feel by pushing Judd to describe his pursuit of the paranormal in terms everyone can understand, even those who don’t believe in ghosts. We learn that he toils away at his day job during the week, and his extracurricular ghost hunting expeditions give his weekends a sense of purpose.
This is a great example of a short arts feature done well—natural sound, an interesting character, and the added element of mystery.
In today’s world, we take navigation for granted. Roads and trails are marked with extensive signage, GPS spits out directions with the push of a button, and even physical maps and compasses are now ultra-modern. This story from New Hampshire Public Radio’s Outside/In podcast explores the fascinating, and once essential, skill of navigation using nothing but the natural world.
Host Sam Evans-Brown takes us on a serious journey in under 25 minutes. First we go back thousands of years to when the Polynesians first developed the ingenious navigation system at the heart of the story. Then we jump to the 1970s, when the Polynesian’s navigation tradition had almost been lost with time. But, as Evans-Brown puts it, a “hodgepodge of Hawaiian anthropologists and adventurers” banded together to revive the practice. We then take a deep dive into the actual practice of becoming a master navigator using only the natural world. Among many other tactics, it involves learning the position of over 100 stars and measuring your hands against the horizon.
The piece closes by connecting natural navigation to our own lives and the way we think about the world today. Trying to figure out which direction you’re facing at any given moment—without modern tools—is incredibly hard to do in our technology-dominated society. But Evans-Brown asks us to consider what’s lost when we don’t even try.
This is a complicated but well-told story. It feels effortless to listen to, even though there’s many different threads woven in to build the narrative arc. It’s a truly engrossing tale of adventure, tradition, and lessons we can learn from the natural world, if only we paid closer attention. A highly-recommended listen.
How To Listen to PRX Remix: Download the PRX Remix app or go to prx.mx and press ‘play’. If you’re a satellite radio kind of person, check out channel 123 on Sirius XM or XM radio. If you’re a traditionalist and stick to the radio dial, check these listings to find Remix on a station near you.
Josh Swartz is the curator of PRX Remix. Email him at email@example.com with questions and suggestions.
In March, Radiotopia launched Podquest, an open call for new podcast ideas, aiming to grow and diversify the network, nurture fresh talent, and reach new audiences. 1,537 people from 53 countries submitted ideas about every topic under the sun.
Radiotopia executive producer Julie Shapiro led a committee of 11 PRX staff and Radiotopia producers in reviewing the entries. 99 Radiotopia donors also reviewed the top 50 entries. Ultimately, the field was narrowed to 10 impressive semifinalists, and later four finalists in June. For the past five months, the finalists have been working on pilot episodes, which were judged by our esteemed committee.
Today, the journey, which started seven months ago, is complete as Radiotopia announces the winner of Podquest: Ear Hustle. Ear Hustle is a unique partnership between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, a collaborator and artist living on the outside. The show unveils the hidden stories of life inside prison, told and produced from the perspective of those who live it. Ear Hustle dives into true, compelling first-person narratives that are difficult, honest, funny, poignant and real, while revealing a more nuanced view of the people serving time in American prisons.
The show is produced in San Quentin’s media lab, where work is done for video and audio projects at the prison, and includes computers, microphones, keyboard for sound design and scoring, Pro Tools licenses, headsets, and more. There are about 12 men who work there, filming various events that happen in the prison and producing radio stories about life inside that air on Crosscurrents on KALW 91.7. Ear Hustle evolved from the work done on Crosscurrent in conjunctionwith the San Quentin Prison Report, which is a multi-media project started by Troy Williams, a man formerly incarcerated at San Quentin.
Ear Hustle aims to tell stories about life inside prison, including the good and the bad. The stories will look at the daily experience of life behind bars, and also dig deep into the reasons people commit crimes and end up in prison. Episode topics will range from pets, fashion and cooking in prison, to stories about restorative justice programs, correctional officers, and profiles of people who work for victim’s rights organizations. Earlonne Woods is a co-creator, co-host and co-producer of EarHustle. Earlonne is 45 years old, from LA, and is serving a 31-years-to-life sentence for attempted second degree robbery. Before starting his current sentence he was a struggling parolee but dreamt of going to film school.
Antwan Williams is the co-creator and sound designer for Ear Hustle, and also creates original hand-drawn artwork for each episode. He’s 28 years old, also from LA, and serving a 15-year sentence for armed robbery with a gun enhancement. Antwan has always been creative and dreamt of having a life in the arts: he’s a dancer, musician, artist, and designs his clothes by altering the official prison blues.
Nigel Poor is the co-creator, c-ohost, and co-producer for Ear Hustle. She is also an artist and professor of photography at California State University, Sacramento. In 2011, Nigel got involved with the prison as a volunteer teacher for the Prison University Project. The project runs a college preparatory program and an Associate of Arts degree program at San Quentin, and in 2015 it received a National Humanit ies Medal from President Obama. Ear Hustle plans to donate a percentage of all of their proceeds to the Prison University Project.
“We are beyond excited to be Podquest winners. My hope is that Ear Hustle can help show that people inside and outside the prison system can work together as colleagues,” said Nigel Poor. “We want to lead by example, and demonstrate that people with different backgrounds and experiences can actually come together and produce important work. Ear Hustle is not just a creative project. It is actually teaching men viable skills and showing the world the effect of rehabilitation, and that change is possible. I hope our project shows the potential for a different story about people who are incarcerated.”
Radiotopia will pick up the first 10-episode season of Ear Hustle, debuting later in 2017. Ear Hustle will use the proceeds from their prize to create their show, and to significantly upgrade the equipment at the San Quentin media lab.
“I was beyond impressed with the range of creative ideas submitted to Podquest from so many talented entrants,” said Julie Shapiro, executive producer of Radiotopia. “Narrowing down to just four finalists was nearly impossible, and then deciding one winner amongst them even harder. The heart and passion that Ear Hustle brought to their pilot episodes, combined with the unique and important stories they aim to share, ultimately moved us to choose them as the Podquest winner. What they accomplished under difficult circumstances is really quite amazing—working inside a prison with no internet, limited working hours, and limited team communication. We’reexcited to help bring Ear Hustle into the world, and for listeners to hear stories and perspectives they’ve never heard before.”
Listen to Ear Hustle’s audio trailer here, and visit the Third Coast Festival in Chicago, Nov 11-13, where Nigel will be available at the Radiotopia booth for interviews and to discuss the show.
About Radiotopia Radiotopia, from PRX, is a curated network of extraordinary, talent-driven shows. Radiotopia empowers independent producers to do their best work, grow audience and increase revenue. At its core, Radiotopia cultivates community — for both listeners and makers alike.
Podquest is one of a series of initiatives funded by a $1 million grant received in May 2015 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Podquest is additionally supported by Hindenburg Systems, the media talent network AIRmedia.org, and Blue Microphones.