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RadioEd Season 1: How to bake a podcast from scratch

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Alyssa Hurst

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This time last year, the team behind DU’s new podcast, RadioEd, was holed up in our homemade recording booth in the Mary Reed Building, recording take after take. The goal was to create an engaging trailer for the soon-to-be released podcast, and though it took us fledgling podcasters many tries and lots of laughs to get it right, we finally got there.

In many ways, that trailer and the work behind it epitomize the first year of RadioEd, which wrapped on November 17, 2020. So much of our first season was experimenting, trying new things, adapting and growing. 

The idea for a DU podcast first formed from my experience attending the 2019 South by Southwest festival. I listened to several talks on the subject and sat in on the premiere of a truly masterful new podcast, “The Ballad of Billy Balls,” which I highly recommend. I saw the power of podcasts, and how accessible the medium could be — even for beginners like us — and recognized the opportunity to reach a new audience. I also saw and appreciated DU’s faculty doing incredible, meaningful work that is so relevant to the world and so deeply true to DU’s public good directive. A podcast, I thought, was the perfect vehicle to personalize this work.

That, combined with the journalistic focus of DU’s newsroom, ultimately formed the core of what RadioEd is — a news podcast that highlights DU research and expertise to explore national headlines at a deeper level.

Hosted by me, Lorne Fultonberg and Nicole Militello, RadioEd launched on January 21, 2020, and is released every other week. Season one covered everything from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, the presidential election and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. By the end of November, more than 5,200 people had listened to 21 episodes of RadioEd across 48 states and 37 countries. 

Of course, one of the biggest hiccups to producing season one of RadioEd was the COVID-19 pandemic. Days before the pandemic sent us home, we were in the process of editing an episode on March Madness and worrying over whether the tournament might be canceled (it was, of course). We were forced to make the difficult decision to scrap the episode entirely and take a break from production until we could figure out how to record from home.

After packing up our recording equipment, purchasing a few necessary new cords and testing out Zoom capabilities, we were back up and running. Each episode brought with it new challenges — intermittent internet outages, less than optimal connections, interrupting pets (check out a cameo by Lorne’s cat Chef in episode nine), poor sound quality and issues with soundproofing, to name a few. Ultimately, we made adjustments along the way, figured out how to turn closets into recording booths and ended up producing the majority of our episodes remotely.

As we prepare for season two, we’re taking time to reflect on season one, and all that we learned. Back in March 2019, when the podcast idea first began taking shape, I didn’t know the difference between condenser and dynamic mics, had never worked with a mixing board, and had only beginner knowledge of audio editing. Today, I’ve learned all this and more, and yet there’s still so much more to learn. We expect season two to build on that knowledge base and are happy to share that with anyone interested.

Season two is taking shape already, and we plan to release the first episode on January 19, 2021. Stay tuned for a season promo in the coming weeks. Expect the same interesting, impactful and timely conversations from season one, but also a few additions to our repertoire.