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Current and former NPR hosts discuss the future of radio

A panel made up of NPR hosts and podcast creators discussed the future of radio in the digital age. Lydia Francis | Hatchet Photographer
A panel made up of NPR hosts and podcast creators discussed the future of radio in the digital age. Lydia Francis | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Henry Klapper.

The School of Media and Public Affairs hosted a panel of four NPR and podcast hosts Wednesday to discuss the future of radio and NPR in the digital age.

The panelists dissected the success of podcasts in a discussion led by SMPA fellow and former NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

1. Changing the game

Andrea Seabrook, the host of the podcast Decode D.C. and a former Congressional correspondent for NPR, left the station and started the show in the fall of 2013 after deciding she “didn’t want to be the mouthpiece for Congress.”

Seabrook said the show gives background on all kinds of topics related to politics and is geared toward younger listeners.

Guy Raz, the host of TED Radio Hour, said he wanted to create a program that’s a little quirkier than NPR’s traditional material.

“I wanted something new,” Raz said. “I saw a TED talk and thought that this had to be on the radio,” he said.

Raz, one of SMPA’s two Shapiro fellows this semester, teaches a class on “Making NPR Style Radio” to show students the nuts and bolts of public radio broadcasting. Raz was previously a bureau chief in Berlin and London, as well as the host of the flagship show All Things Considered.

2. Doing it yourself

Linda Holmes, the host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, said that people interested in hosting a podcast shouldn’t let costs be a barrier.

“You don’t need a million dollars to have a great show,” Holmes said.

She said even though high-quality equipment may make a show sound better, the content is still the most important aspect to a great podcast.

“Sure my microphones sound great, they cost more than your car,” Holmes said. “But, you can create a really great podcast on the cheap.”

Raz said creators of new podcasts should focus on making content they love before worrying about attracting an audience.

“Do what you love and your tribe will find you,” Raz said.

3. Looking in the crystal ball

When asked, “Is radio as we know it doomed?” all panelists said no.

Panelists said new, popular podcasts like Serial have helped boost the medium and bring in new fans.

“NPR has millions of listeners, and thanks to these innovations there will be millions more,” Raz said.

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