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For almost a decade, The Monti has showcased a diverse group of storytellers at its live events but the audience always was limited to those in the room. Executive Director Jeff Polish wanted to find a way to share the stories more widely, and a podcast seemed the perfect medium for the endeavor.
Some stories don’t translate well to audio but for the most part Polish curates the best shows for the podcast. He also pays close attention to who tells the story and the genre of each piece. The Monti wants to foster diversity and balance dramatic topics with lighter fare in an effort to connect with those listening on the other end.
After one show in Greensboro, Polish was breaking down equipment when a man in his late 20s named James approached him. Polish remembers: “He said, ‘I really want to tell you what your show and podcast mean to me. I moved to Greensboro about eight months ago. I’ve been lonely, and on top of that, I suffer from depression and extreme anxiety. Sometimes, I listen to your podcast while I’m cooking dinner for myself, and I start laughing uncontrollably; other times, I am listening while folding laundry, and I sob uncontrollably. These stories are so familiar to me. They make me feel connected to people.’”
James’ heartfelt admission moved Polish and reiterated the importance of the podcast. “I love my job,” he adds.
Episode #156 features Montek Singh, a UNC professor and Sikh who describes enduring severe anti-Muslim discrimination after 911 in Chapel Hill and he’s not even Muslim.
Episode #127 Rebekah Vaisey tells us a shameful secret for the first time while standing on our stage. This story polarized our audience around one issue.
This is Criminal
The founders of “This is Criminal” Phoebe Judge, Eric Mennel and Lauren Spohrer were working together in public radio when their show was cancelled in 2013. Instead of going their separate ways, they banded together around their mutual love of radio in an effort to create something new.
“Audio journalism is what we know and love,” says Spohrer
The trio decided to spend their free time after work and on weekends putting together a podcast focused on crime. When discussing potential ideas, Spohrer brought up something she’d heard, that owls sometimes attack people. The ensuing first episode was about a high-profile Durham murder that involved a possible owl attack.
“For the first time in our careers, we were making exactly what we wanted to be making, even if we were doing it before work at 6:30 a.m.,” says Spohrer. “That’s what’s amazing about podcasts. You don’t have to wait for someone else to greenlight your show idea.”
Since 2013, Spohrer and Judge quit their day jobs and continue producing tales inspired by unusual crimes twice a month. Their focus has always been on trying to figure out why people do what they do, and the lines aren’t always clearly drawn, a fact that makes their podcast so much more compelling.
Episode #18, 695-BGK, a case of mistaken digits leads a police officer to shoot the wrong man.
Episode #23, Triassic Park, a visit to a petrified forest in Arizona where stealing a piece of history as a souvenir has serious consequences.
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