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Truth to Power's first national podcast

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

Last year, when Truth to Power’s first submission to the NPR Student Podcast Challenge placed in the semifinals, it became a clear goal for our club to submit another podcast to the competition, this time aiming to best our previous personal record. This year, we got the opportunity to do just that. We went through the process of planning and recording a podcast that was comprehensive of all of the troubles that we’ve faced locally throughout this challenging year, and after some deliberation and lots of work, we were able to submit a podcast that earned us a spot in the top 15--out of 2,600 entries--of NPR’s student competition. Our podcast: “Tea, Toast and Truth: ‘To Be Or Not To Be?’” is the reflection of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s influence on the local economy, and the analysis of the codependent relationship between the town and the theatre company.


As we started off, we were excited to construct a podcast that would best our previous entry, but figuring out what the subject of the podcast ought to be took us a while to determine. The brainstorming process took lots of input from all our club members, and for a while, we were split on which topic to pursue. After some conversation and compromise, we were able to agree that a podcast centralized around OSF’s relationship with the city of Ashland would be fitting in multiple ways. The topic was specific enough to fit within the 8-minute limit of the NPR student podcast challenge, yet comprehensive enough to create a second, longer version, which could include more interviews and give more depth to the sections that couldn’t be developed within those 8 minutes. Additionally, writing a podcast about OSF stood out as being an incredible opportunity to understand more about the festival and about Ashland as a whole. OSF feels incredibly familiar to those of us who live in Ashland, but this podcast created a chance to understand the broadness of the impact that the festival has on the town. We had the opportunity to conduct several enlightening interviews that expanded our understanding of the function of OSF, learning how the festival has contributed to the community in terms of its diversity work and mutual aid support after the fires, and becoming more aware of the overall growth and reflection that comes from having a small town centered around such a large theater. Additionally, the interviewees were quick to remind us of the necessity for creativity and joy when things seem dim as they did throughout 2020. To reflect the importance of the artistic, creative nature of OSF, it was our goal to compose narration for the podcast that really represented the spirit of the theatre: while writing a flowing story with a peak and some drama, also maintaining accuracy in the facts. It was equally important to tell a story with this podcast as it was to specify the important connection that OSF has with the city of Ashland.


While the finished product of the podcast comes across as easygoing and polished, the process of creating the episode was quite the opposite. Creating a group podcast requires a lot of communication and flexibility, and production often serves more as a team-building exercise than anything else. Everyone interested in helping out with the OSF podcast was given a role; we had teams of producers, interviewers, writers, transcribers, and more, all working together to finish the podcast before the deadline, and we could all feel the stress and excitement of the process as we worked to reach our goal. We ran into a few issues with the production along the way, and much of the editing process required some unique problem solving. Between the stress of last-minute homework assignments and editing systems failing, the sailing wasn’t always smooth, and the process was always evolving. Being able to adapt to the unforeseen circumstances is a large part of podcast production, and it’s really wonderful to be able to work through those tough situations as a team.


The best part of podcast production for many of us is hearing feedback and encouragement from the community. Being online throughout this year has been extremely difficult, so receiving support from our peers and advisors makes the hard work that we do all worth it. As we partnered with OSF to host a gala commemorating the publication of the podcast, and as we were featured on JPR for an interview and play-through of the episode, we felt the connection to our community being re-built. Being able to get the podcast out to a large audience and hearing positive feedback makes all of the bumps in the road experienced throughout the process feel 100% worth it. We are endlessly grateful to have made the top 15 in this year’s student podcast competition, and we hope you’ll keep your eye out as we shoot to place even higher in the years to come.




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