Make Noise: A Creator’s Guide to Podcasting and Great Audio Storytelling

Eric Nuzum writes in this 2019 book:

* There is a term that journalists and producers use to describe a certain type of production: a deep dive. A “deep dive” is a podcast story or episode (or long-form article, video, or other form of media) that explores a topic, happening, or event in great “depth”: lots of context and detail, as well as getting into the “how” and “why” of a story.

Guy likes to think of the role a deep dive plays in a listener’s life by taking the term and using it metaphorically.
“If you are on a boat and it’s very turbulent on the water, it’s very choppy, right. It’s very unpleasant,” he says. It becomes a metaphorical reference to the turbulence and drama of daily news, which can often overwhelm people and cause them to want to get a breakaway.

“All you have to do is dive twenty meters beneath the surface of the ocean, and it doesn’t matter if there’s a hurricane, because it’s always going to be calm. It doesn’t matter,” he says. “It’s always calm twenty meters down. The motion of the waves twenty meters above doesn’t affect what’s going on deep down. It’s calm. It’s quiet.”

… Guy sees his shows as the calm water underneath, the place where listeners can dive in to escape the turbulence.

…That’s actually a beautiful and thoughtful gift for his listeners. It’s saying that you, the listener, come to this show to get away from the frantic news of the day. The show is not just an escape, but a provider of perspective. All the craziness of the day and the week—they are all just waves on the surface: distractions. They will pass. In the deeper, still waters, we will be safe until things are calm.

* Recently a friend of an acquaintance called me for advice on starting a podcast. When I asked what the podcast was about, she told me they had done some investigative work on a local doctor who had been accused of molesting young female
patients—very young female patients.

“So tell me,” I asked. “Why would someone want to listen to that?”

“Because it is an important story,” was the reply. “And we really dive in deep on who this guy was and what makes him tick.”

I said that I didn’t doubt its importance and praised her for her journalism and efforts to approach a difficult and highly emotionally charged subject. But none of that was a reason to listen to the story. And it wasn’t a good reason to look at podcasting as the right way to distribute it.

I told her that it would be hard to imagine someone seeking out a podcast that was basically a biography of a serial rapist. I wasn’t suggesting that their portrait of this guy and his crimes wouldn’t be sympathetic, but that is really rough material.

“But no one else has this,” she protested. “We have interviews with a lot of his victims, those who knew him, and many others. We basically own this story.”

I told her that those were good reasons to cover the news story as a news story in their news programs on other platforms. But to create a stand-alone podcast, they were shitty reasons.

She just couldn’t understand why I would say this. The story was new material on a heavily reported story. It had been so widely covered before, that had to be a sign that people were interested in it.

I told her that in broadcasting, there are thousands of examples of news stories, big, important, relevant, news stories that were widely covered every day in the press—that had been found to drive listeners away in droves. Syrian refugees. The Bosnian war. Famine. Ebola. All incredibly important stories journalistically, but they drove many listeners away.

To put it simply, people couldn’t bear to hear that much bad news. It was too much.

* If the point of your journalism is to inform and enlighten as many people as possible, focus on how to tell the story in a way that engages them first, then informs and enlightens them. No one ever listened to a podcast because they “should” listen to it. That’s work. That’s not entertainment.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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