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A special episode of KPBS Roundtable features a discussion with several KPBS podcast hosts about their shows and the growth of the podcast platform.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 This week, a special edition of the KPBS round table. We shine a light on the unique storytellers you'll find on KPBS podcasts

Speaker 2: 00:10 and you're listening to only here. This is rad scientists. Welcome back to another episode of listener supported KPBS cinema junkie podcast.

Speaker 1: 00:20 San Diego is culture, science and film. It's a discussion with our hosts about their passions and platforms. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS round starts now.

Speaker 3: 00:35 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:39 I'm Mark Sauer and this week we're doing something a bit different on the KPBS round table, a special look at the shows and hosts that make up a small part of the growing KPBS podcast platform. And joining me today are Kinsey Moreland KPBS podcast producer and editor, Margot wall host over rad scientist Alan Lillian tell host of only here and Beth Huck Amando, KPBS arts reporter and host of the cinema junkie podcast. Well, it's tough for a podcast broadcast audiences that is especially radio listeners to absorb statistics. So let me throw a few at you. Anyway. There are more than 750,000 podcasts available in the United States. 90 million Americans listened to at least one podcast in the past month. Half of listeners do so at home, 22% in their car, and the U S is fifth among countries. When comparing the percentage of residents listening to podcast number one, South Korea at 58% all right. That is a mouthful. And see statistics and let's get past that. And it's safe to say though, podcasts are more popular than ever, right?

Speaker 2: 01:45 That's right. I've been to a couple podcasts conferences in the last year and this is what all the church looked like. Just going up. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 01:53 Now give us a bit of a history, a the word podcast. Where did that originate? A bit quaint now, isn't it?

Speaker 2: 01:58 It is because it's for old, older people like me who've been listening for a long time. We had our little iPods and we would go to our computer and download the file onto our little iPod and then go. And so it's after iPod and then of course the cast comes from broadcast.

Speaker 1: 02:13 Okay. Now, uh, for those not familiar, uh, how does a podcast differ from a traditional talk show?

Speaker 2: 02:18 Well, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it is a traditional talk show, but it doesn't have the same constraints of time and a format that traditional broadcast does. So they can be anything. They can be narrative, they can be experimental, they can be fiction, audio dramas. It's really, it's really the sky's the limit

Speaker 1: 02:36 or traditional interviews and clips. So give us an overview how KPBS curates produces podcast and you're our first podcast editors. So it's bigger than ever here, right?

Speaker 2: 02:47 It is. We're so excited. We have 11 podcasts and we do actually Roundtable as a podcast. So there's some that are broadcast to podcast so you can find all your shows that you listen to on KPBS in podcast space. And then we have like one investigative series and then we have special podcast that we actually put a call out to the community and they give us ideas and we look through them and then we end up producing some of those podcasts. And what sort of feedback do you get from KPBS listeners? Oh my gosh, the best, because we just got an email. We get that. The cool thing about podcasts is that people are listening everywhere. So just yesterday we got some feedback from someone in Wisconsin who said she just related to every single episode of only here that we did. So it's really cool to see how connected they feel to those stories and they're stuck inside with a cold blast of weather.

Speaker 2: 03:33 They're all the time I've heard that. It makes them feel warm when they listen to our podcast and the elements of a really good, the popular podcast. You know what, I keep coming back to just a good story narrative podcast that just have a really good story. I mean, storytelling is an oral tradition, right? And so with podcasts, again, you don't have those constraints. So just a good story with a beginning, middle, and end that you can really connect with the character who's telling the story, the host who's helping tell it. And trends, as you said at the outset, uh, trends are or anything, anything you want them to be, right? They are. Well, I think kids, podcasts are a cool trend that are happening. A lot of people are making podcasts specifically for young audiences. A smart speakers are kind of changing the listening experience. So where as we used to listen only in our cars or with our earbuds in now people, it's more of a communal experience cause you're telling your Amazon speaker to play this podcast or that podcast. So, so you're listening with your family. Okay. All right, let's toss over to Allen now. Tell us about only here, how'd your podcast come about? The idea behind it?

Speaker 4: 04:33 Yeah. Well actually it started the origin stories. Kinsey can probably speak to better cause it started before I came here, but um, I was doing a lot of cross border work. Obviously we have a huge border, one of the most, the most crossed in the Western hemisphere. And there's a lot of mystery. I mean not mystery, but people, it's abstract for most people. People don't experience it on a, on a daily basis. And it's a huge part of my life. I cross the border every day. And for a lot of people here, it's a huge part of their lives. And we wanted to tell stories that kind of paint that picture a little more clearly and demystify what border life is really like through stories of creativity and subcultures that don't often get spoken about when speaking about the border.

Speaker 2: 05:14 All right, well that's a nice segue. Let's, uh, let's hear a little bit about and get a little taste of, of the podcast here and set this one up for us.

Speaker 4: 05:20 Sure. This one is one of the latest episodes we did. It's about low riding. Low riding is actually a Mexican American tradition. It's not from Mexico, it's by Mexicans who live in America, Chicano culture. Um, but here in a border town, it's taken on some very interesting farms because you have both Mexico and America and we kind of explore low riding through the eyes of someone who's been deported from America to Mexico and can't come back and brought low riding with him as a way to kind of maintain connection to his, to his sculpture.

Speaker 2: 05:50 All right, let's hear that

Speaker 4: 05:53 these days the slow and low to the ground cars and bikes can be found almost anywhere. Low riding has become a culture created by Chicanos and export it all over the world. It's big in Japan tote. Seriously. Not to mention in Brazil and other low rider hotspots, but at the border, the low rider scene is a lifeline back on Logan Avenue and the water, the Maga is showing up is gorgeous. Multicolored 1965 Chevy Impala.

Speaker 3: 06:26 Yeah, that's tight. Let's go like this.

Speaker 5: 06:37 It is a big backyard party where everybody is behaving. I'm having a good time. Uh, we all sit here in a corner and we'll talk amongst each other and then we'll go and talk to everybody else in different clubs and we're all just, just talking, having a good time.

Speaker 1: 06:57 All right. Uh, who would you say your, your audiences and what kind of feedback are you getting from them? Yeah, I mean we kept it [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 07:02 pretty wide net. Um, we're mostly interested in people who, who maybe have heard of the border or maybe have never crossed and are interested in, in, in traveling and adventure and learning about new cultures and, but also people here who, who do interact with the border but maybe don't necessarily fully understand the, the richness and the, the dynamic dynamism. I don't know if that's a word,

Speaker 1: 07:29 the robust nature, robust nature of border life

Speaker 4: 07:32 and, and the, the kind of what emerges from that. Um, obviously we hear a lot about the drama, uh, but you don't hear a lot about what the, what emerges from the drama. Like the creativity and, and the, and the, yeah, and the culture. So yeah, we want people who are interested in exploring new cultures and who are interested in the arts and food and, yeah.

Speaker 1: 07:54 And what makes a good episode? What's your best ideas? That's something we're exploring ourselves, I think. I think like Kinsey said,

Speaker 4: 08:01 a good character more than more so than an idea or a theme. The a person that represents whatever kind of culture we want to explore that rent comes out of the border. I think, uh, an intriguing personal story of someone who's who, who crosses the border and has been shaped by the board and whose work and life I've been shaped by the board

Speaker 1: 08:22 and you've already seen only here evolve a little bit. It's kind of changing as you go along. Right? Yeah. It's been changing even recently. More we recently, yeah,

Speaker 4: 08:30 we were part of a PRX is project catapult in Boston, which is kind of a six month podcast incubator sort of thing. And through that we're just learning a lot about how to tell better stories more than anything. I think the stories, there's way too many to tell. So we don't have any lack of that. It's more of a how can we present these stories in a way that's universal and very local. Um, because like he said, there's someone from like Wyoming, Wisconsin that really felt these stories and that's, that's beautiful that we can find these stories that are so local to us, but also have these universal themes running through them. Um, so yeah, I think the evolution is just figuring out how to tell these stories in a more impactful way.

Speaker 1: 09:12 And Kenzie, how often do we, uh, produce these stories? Is it a regular schedule or is it, geez, how long it takes and how, how we get a good story and how long it takes to get to get it together. God, that would be amazing. Deadlines in the journalism business week. So we come out on Wednesdays every other week, so. Okay. And um, of course we can get, as you mentioned at the outset, we can get the podcast, all these podcasts, wherever you get your podcasts and and it's so easy these days you can even tell a machine and play this. All right, well, we're going to shift now to Margo and to scientist and the name itself is intriguing, but explain the concept behind behind your.

Speaker 6: 09:52 Sure. Well rad, you know, I'm, I'm from the East coast, so coming to California, you know, red is, but where do you guys like to use a lot? I feel like it's having a comeback to, I don't know. Um, but anyways, the, the concept of the show is, um, to profile a scientist from San Diego and it's kind of like a character study. Like who are these people who dedicate their lives to this really tiny subject matter to kind of glean a little bit of knowledge that's new. Um, and also to kind of be part of the bigger scope of figuring out like what we live on and how we live, how we cure diseases, all sorts of different things.

Speaker 1: 10:30 And San Diego is a pretty good hotbed for that, right? I mean, we've got all sorts of scientific research here and scientists here.

Speaker 6: 10:37 So many, yeah, there's just like this huge concentration. I mean, I work at the Salk Institute, but I'm a student at UCFD. There's scripts right across the street. Um, we have all of the biotech companies in the world. I mean like, there's just so many, um, institutions here dedicated to science. It's really awesome.

Speaker 1: 10:55 All right, we're going to hear a little bit about our little bit from, I should say the, uh, the podcast right now set up the, this what we're going hear now.

Speaker 6: 11:01 Sure. So this is the latest episode. Um, this is a chemistry student actually. She just graduated called Sophia Hiraku says she's a first generation Greek American and um, she, you know, is thinking broader than her scope of just her research. So she really wants to kind of impact the world through science. And so you'll hear a little bit about her next steps are good. Let's hear that.

Speaker 3: 11:30 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 11:30 so if he had just defended her PhD and she's doing some work in a new lab on heart cells, but she's also starting a nonprofit called works of wisdom. And the mission is to help young scientists who circumstances have left them in a new country. Without many prospects, there are people that have been displaced because of four brilliant scientific minds that never allow, be allowed the opportunity to plant themselves like a seed to grow into a fruitful tree.

Speaker 8: 12:00 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 12:01 it's heartbreaking when you think about the scientific potential and the potential of these young brilliant minds who have seen disease born famine and want to change the world for the better. One of the main destinations for recent refugees is Greece. So we have camps of refugees and within these camps of refugees, you can imagine there are many university students who don't have a place to go. Sophia wants to help refugees gain entrance to countries like the U S to continue their scientific education and get them out of the camps. It's aimed at the creation of pipelines for refugees, placing them in internships, giving them preparation for GRE and TOEFL exams as well as immigration resources.

Speaker 1: 12:49 All right. And tell us who you're aiming red scientist's head. Who's the audience?

Speaker 6: 12:53 Um, so I'd like to say everyone because science is affecting you whether you want it. Yeah, exactly. Um, but not only do you have to be like interested in science, um, I also, if you're just interested in human beings in general, I mean, the show is really about exploring one person in depth. What makes them tick, what makes them unique, um, their weird quirks and then also why they think what they're studying for years and years on end is the most fascinating thing in the world. Can I just add that clip we played was really serious, but Margaret was hilarious. She's a pun master. So a lot of the episodes, yeah, exactly. A lot of them are just fun to listen to. And at the end she does this little audience engagement piece. So I think her, her shows are fun and interactive in a lot of cases.

Speaker 1: 13:40 No. Uh, Margaret, you're a neuroscience PhD student. How's the process of creating this podcast, uh, shape your wider experience and your education?

Speaker 6: 13:48 It's been quite an interesting journey and it actually really has affected the way that I communicate my science. So obviously I'm in doing the show. I have to be able to take other people's science, um, make sure that I understand it first and then be able to explain it in a way that anyone can understand it. And so I've realized actually recently I gave a talk and someone was like, it was like you are giving a podcast. So now when I give my academic talks, I think I'm almost, I'm doing it in podcast format apparently.

Speaker 1: 14:17 Well, science, excuse me. Early in my career as a journalist back at the university, I actually, I had a similar thing on a podcast, but writing a lot about scientific research and it's, it's difficult because I'm not a scientist, I'm not a a doctor or certainly a specialist in a certain area. How do you make it open to a general audience and yet satisfy the scientists that we're not dumbing it down or simplifying it too much?

Speaker 6: 14:40 Um, well the thing you'll learn when you become a scientist is that, you know, nothing. And so, um, I barely know anything about what I research is how I feel and I know yes and I know even less what these other scientists are doing. So oftentimes I'm on the same playing field as everyone else. So I need to get it to where I can understand it. Um, and that should leave it hopefully where other people can understand it. I mean, some things, some concept like, uh, the universe, uh, being curved or flat, like something like that is like, okay, I need to take a step back. This is hard to understand. Um, and so I have to get it to a point where I'm like, Oh, okay, now I can finally transmit this idea to other people.

Speaker 1: 15:20 I can't even get my mind around around what an algorithm is. So we hear that all the time. Of course, I said, well, uh, I wanted to get into this. And any of us who've interviewed scientists over the years, even if you're not on a science beat, there's gotta be a trick to getting scientists to shed that whole stage. Just the facts, ma'am persona and get into the spirit of the podcast and relating to a general audience. How do you, how do you get them to do that? Get them to loosen up?

Speaker 6: 15:45 Um, I think I, I mean I come in and, um, I can be like a little goofy, so I kinda try to get people into like the goofy mindset, especially towards the end. I'll do like a little bit at the end. That's kind of like just goofy someone, um, it can be like them rapping or writing a haiku. And at first you can see like they're a little uncomfortable. But at some point if you just prompt them enough and then also like, all right, let me help out. Like, boom, poop chew, you know, like, you know, getting into it yourself. Maybe. Um, I'm not exactly sure how, but I just think that by being myself, which is like a little goofy, I can sometimes pull it out of people as well.

Speaker 1: 16:22 You know, it's kind of a serious thing. We do a lot of stories. I do a lot of interviews on KPBS about climate change and this, this profound, uh, challenge that's facing all of us now. But the scientists were criticized early on for being, you know, too straight, just the facts. Here's the report on this and not, you know, talking about the urgency of it then and having engaging the audiences that were, I mean, that's an example I think of where it's really important to get scientists to open up.

Speaker 6: 16:46 Yeah, storytelling matters. Um, even for science, I know that some people don't like to acknowledge that, but narrative is how we connect with everything. And so having storytelling as a part of the way that we communicate important science like climate change, um, is going to make other people understand. I think the gravity of it.

Speaker 1: 17:06 All right Beth and we'll move on to something that maybe doesn't have so much gravity and you seem to be one of the pioneering pod-casters here. It seems like a cinema junkies been around even before podcasts were even,

Speaker 6: 17:16 well, not that long. KPBS kind of recognize the podcasts were something that had a lot of potential when serial did so well and won awards and just had millions of listeners. And so that's when they really wanted to launch it. That was, so I launched the podcast in 2015 because I love movies and I've been covering film for KPBS and NPR since the 90s. And I had this wealth of interviews where I use like maybe a minute for a radio feature. Uh, but I had interviews with, you know, John Wu one car wide, John Carpenter, all these people. And I said, well, here's the thing. We can do podcasts on stuff that's new and then also dig into the archives. So that I'm not constantly having to put out a new podcast every week and save time and energy, but be able to like cover film in an interesting way.

Speaker 6: 18:06 So you didn't interview DW Griffith and now this name seems self explanatory, but it's more than just movies. I mean, you really branch out beyond cinema, don't you? Yeah, I mean to me pop culture and movies are a gateway to talking about anything and people have easy access to films. They're not scared of them in terms of, you know, going to see a film about a topic and feeling like they don't know anything. Um, so I think films are an easy way for people to learn about other perspectives, other worlds, other cultures, ideas that they're not familiar with. And through the podcast, I hope that I can open their eyes to a wealth of different topics, a wealth of different perspectives and also understand the creative process and what goes into making a film better. Right. All that behind the scenes stuff that really is fascinating to all of us.

Speaker 6: 18:55 Well, we want to get a little a taste of cinema junkie here in a recent clips at this one up for sure. So the lighthouse is a new film still in theaters. Robert Eggers is the director and he is a filmmaker where you really feel the craft of his film. So I appreciate the opportunity to have him on the show to really talk in depth about what went into making this film and what element that's great in this also is the soundscape because there isn't a real defining line between kind of ambient sound or sound, real sounds and then music. And then sound design. And talk a little bit about how you work with sound on your film.

Speaker 9: 19:32 When I was shooting the film on the Cape for a shoe, which is a peninsula off the Southern tip of Nova Scotia, this sounds in the power of the sea and the wind was so present that, you know, I, I, I wanted to have a really large sounding movie. That was the only way to do it. So we worked very hard with Jamie, involve a, a sound designer and Mark Corban the composer on, on, as you say, a blending the lines between these two things where the Foghorn would sort of Mel with the aleatoric brass section and Willem just those flatulence and there was a lot of work to be done to make sure that every object in the house sounded as crusty, dusty, rusty, musty. I hope I didn't already use that string of words in this interview, but you know, to make everything sound as broken down as, as possible so that when, you know, when you hear all, all the rust and old pipes and horrible sounds of the water pumps, that you know that the water that's going to come out of that has gotta be the worst tasting water that's ever existed.

Speaker 6: 20:41 All right. All the rich sounds. Well Beth, to quote an old Bob Seger lyric, um, you know, how do you know what to leave

Speaker 1: 20:48 in and what to leave out? So many movies, so a limited pot even podcast, you can't do them forever.

Speaker 6: 20:53 No. Uh, I mean, what I do is I tend to follow my passions. I feel that if I'm really interested in a filmmaker or a film or a genre, that the enthusiasm I have, and in talking to the people, the people I have on the show understand that I'm genuine in terms of wanting to know about their films or about what their subject matter is. And that, that enthusiasm I think is what helps get people interested in what I'm talking.

Speaker 1: 21:19 So if they're jazz and your jazz, the audience should be too.

Speaker 6: 21:21 So, I mean, you know, that's one of the ways you share things that you love is, you know, I mean, I have my love of movies because my dad passed it on to me and you know, if he hadn't had that, I'm not sure I'd be doing what I'm doing right now.

Speaker 1: 21:32 I wanted to ask you a, uh, uh, just a basic question I've always had about, about being a film critic here and how you judge when a movie is, is done really well. It may not be the most popular movie. There's a, we always hear the critics love this one. The audience didn't turn out and all, but what are you looking for it? Just in what they're trying to do and how well do they do it?

Speaker 6: 21:50 Yeah, I mean, you know, reviewing films and being critic, it's like eating a good meal too. Like you can't tell me that if I say I love broccoli, that I'm wrong. So you know, when you review a film, it's like, it's how it speaks to you. And I can watch a film and sometimes say like, that was a well-made film, but it's not my cup of tea. But for me, I'm looking for what is the film trying to do, does it achieve it? And then was it worth doing in the first place. So to me, that's kind of the elements that I look for. And a lot of times, you know, the film is going to hook you in that opening couple of minutes. And you know, right? Like with the lighthouse, like when that film opens, you're transported to another world like that. And it was brilliant. And so, you know, but it's an emotional thing I think too. And it has an intellectual element to it that you can go back and look at it and evaluate it. But for me, it's just going in and every time I go into a movie, I just want my jaw to drop down and to be looking up at the screen and off. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 22:49 There you go. Al. I wanted to get back to you about, uh, about an only here, a episode recently, the period, the appeal of Tijuana as a movie location, movie traffic comes to mind. We're going to hear a clip about that. Explain what we're about to hear.

Speaker 4: 23:03 Uh, you have, uh, a city that's kind of built to be a movie set. It's, it's unbelievable. Like there's, you know, carcasses of buildings and all kinds of multicultural looking places and futuristic looking places and having LA so close. Um, there's a lot of potential for it to be a filmmaking capital cause there's not only as a location, there's a lot of talent, a lot of filmmaking talent in that city that could be tapped into.

Speaker 1: 23:32 All right. Let's hear about a shooting in Tijuana.

Speaker 10: 23:36 For those who've never been to Tijuana, I should probably take a minute to try to describe it. It's a mishmash of everything you've shacks and shantytowns

Speaker 4: 23:46 and some parts and million dollar mansions and others. You've got the beach, the desert, and sparkling new skyscrapers next to shells of skyscrapers that were only ever have built overall. The city looks somehow both post-apocalyptic but also futuristic at the same time. In many ways. It's still in the past with chickens running around on dirt roads that cut across hillsides with apron wearing abuela's. But the border city also gives us a glimpse of the future with its digital billboards, genre defining architecture and collision of world cultures.

Speaker 11: 24:31 It's sort of like a readymade set if you get out of the touristy areas, which is the parts that I'm more interested in, like the suburbs. Everything's ready made. You can put your camera anywhere you want, you know, without a script and just like start shooting and something will happen.

Speaker 1: 24:49 Beth few seconds left. Uh, how about San Diego is a, a site as well as Tijuana for shooting movies.

Speaker 6: 24:55 Oh, it's a great location as well. And you know, I've showcased filmmakers from TJ and from San Diego and you know, we don't have a film commission right now. We're trying to get that started back up and make it easier to shoot here, but it's a great location.

Speaker 1: 25:08 Yeah. And for TV shows as well. A lot of shootings had been done. Uh, a few seconds left going to get that film commission soon.

Speaker 6: 25:14 I don't know, I'm not the one who was able to make it happen, but we'd like to see something like that again to make shooting you. [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 25:24 all right, well I, this was a great discussion. I learned a lot myself. It does wrap up another week at the KPBS round table and thank you to the KPBS podcast producers, I E Kinsley Morlan and Margo wall, Allen, Lillian Pell and Beth OCHA, Mondo. I want to thank all of you for joining me today and telling me about all of the, in our audience about all of these podcasts is terrific reminder. All of these KPBS podcasts can be found on all of the major podcast platforms, and that's always on our website. KPBS dot. O R. G I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today on the round table.

Speaker 3: 26:20 [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible].

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KPBS Roundtable

Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.