🐕 Racing dogs 🍫 Kinder Surprise warnings ⚠️ Dillon Helbig’s Chrismas 🎄 Tell Me About Odessa 🇺🇦
🍭 👂 You're in for a treat! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, March 7. There are 92 days until I go on my next Disney cruise?????????? Seriously tell me if I should be going on this thing or not. I am not strong enough to make the decision myself. In case this email is too long, it’s that time of year for this, an entire conversation about the warning note found inside Kinder Surprise Eggs here, a love letter to Ukraine here.
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Camille Stennis, an audio producer with 6+ years of experience working on podcasts and various audio projects as an editor, sound designer, executive producer, head of production, and project manager. She has successfully developed shows, planned episodes, created efficient production schedules, and directed multiple recording sessions. The audio shows she has produced include narrative storytelling, true crime, interview-based, and talk show style shows with some averaging over 1 million listens a year. She now works for OWN as their Managing Producer of Podcasts. Great things are in development.
The app you use to listen: Player.FM
Listening time per week (hours): 10-20 hours listening to podcasts, 40+ hours editing and sound designing podcasts lol. I don't get a lot of time to casually listen to podcasts, because it's my full-time job to be a part of the creative process that goes into making the podcasts you all love and enjoy.
When you listen: Between 6 and 8 am when my wife is still asleep, and I can't go back to sleep. I'm more of a morning person than she lol. While walking my dogs in the morning and evening. While I cook, and while I answer emails. Essentially during moments, I don't want to be alone with just my thoughts, and when I want to learn/experience something new. Escapism.
How you discover: If I like the sound design of a podcast, I'll start following the network to get that consistent level of production quality. Especially since I love listening to science fiction podcasts. They're like a movie for the ears, truly. And as a sound designer, they provide me inspiration for my own work. QCODE is a network I come back to pretty consistently. They've got great diverse voices narrating their stories.
Anything else you want to say? Always be authentic. We all have bills to pay, but in podcasting, it's more important to stay authentic. We don't listen for a facade, we listen for connection, relatability, and escape. Can't get that if you're trying too hard to be what you're not.
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word.
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
What’s your favorite genre of online drama?
Random TikTok beefs are hands down my favorite pastime. It’s basically reality TV in bite size pieces. Unfortunately, TikTok is the wild west and something that starts as a funny drama but can turn dark quickly, like “Couch Guy” or “West Elm Caleb” - which is an unfortunate side of social media entertainment.
What is your relationship with apologizing?
The way we treat apologies right now, in the United States especially, is really broken. As a teenager and young adult, I hated having to apologize. Now as an adult, I have the confidence to own when I’ve made a mistake and take my lumps, learn and grow. We have to change our thinking around apologies because I think so many people see it as a sign of weakness. I would like to see us create a new landscape/culture that allows for accountability and learning.
How have you changed as a podcaster since I’m Sorry started?
Well, I finally actually started listening to myself. I am one of those people that hates hearing themselves, so before I’m Sorry, if I were a guest on other shows, I would just have to pray I didn’t say anything crazy because I knew I wouldn’t listen. Now, I love listening to every show because one, we have an amazing producer who is able to give our show such amazing cadence and two, because normally I’m so invested in the conversation with my co-hosts when we record, that sometimes I forget things we talked about so it’s nice to hear it as a listener. Research has become an essential part of my process. It seems to have become a lost art. The research process helps me to stay objective. It allows me to ground myself in the subject's motivation and yields another important byproduct - empathy. Very often, depending on the subject matter, I want to do the show even more for the people who think differently from me than the ones who agree with me.
What has making a podcast taught you about the world or yourself?
There are “absolutely” no absolutes.
What has studying apologies taught you about them?
When someone makes a public apology I definitely now take more notice of the language they use to decide for myself whether I think they actually mean it or not and what they hope to get out of the apology. We did an interview with Alison Rosen and she brought up how people who say “I apologize” don’t seem as sincere as people who say “I’m sorry,” and it was a real “hmmm” moment for me. It’s so interesting how nobody ever formally teaches us how to apologize. It’s such an important tool in relationship and character building. We just sort of leave it to people to figure out in real time when they make mistakes as a kid and that is sort of supposed to hold over into adulthood. I actually think I’m Sorry should create a curriculum for the school system. However, based on the current climate, that class would probably be called radical and exclusionary and be banned.
Is it tough to have three very funny, opinionated, confident co hosts on one show?
Not at all. It’s quite refreshing how the three of us have so many shared interests, yet we are each so wildly different from each other.
What does Mohanad uniquely bring to the show?
Mohanad is so good at delivering precise analysis with dry, sarcastic humor – it’s why he’s so good at Twitter. I envy that skill.
What does Hoja uniquely bring to the show?
Hoja is a magician with words… which I’m hoping can rub off on me. She says exactly what I’m thinking but her language choices and encapsulation are next level.
What’s a show you love that almost everyone seems to know about?
People who have followed me for a while know that I have been listening to Howard Stern for half my life, maybe even longer. But then there are people who come along who are always surprised to learn it’s one of my favorite shows because they see me – a plus-size Black woman – and they think I couldn’t possibly love Stern. Howard is the reason I got into radio and eventually podcasting. Most of my generation knows “of” Howard Stern but they don’t REALLY know his work - because they don’t listen to his show. He’s considered a “shock jock” but that’s a tiny dimension to his show. His body of work and the talent he’s interviewed is on par with that of Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite, etc. I learned how to interview, how to listen, how to create a safe space for guests, how to be open minded and how to be an independent thinker by studying him.
Are you looking to start a new podcast? Do you have a podcast that you want to grow and monetize? DCP Entertainment CEO, Chris Colbert is hosting 4-week courses to help you reach your goals.🏆 Click here.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
Philly Fighting Covid seemed like an admirable organization, its mission was to get the city of Philadelphia vaccinated. But at the helm was a 22-year-old with no health care experience who was hoping to make millions, and schmoozed his way into aligning his company with the city, only to have Philly Fighting Covid implode as thousands of people awaited vaccinations. We don’t know what was in his heart, but on Half Vaxxed, his story screams grifter vibes. It’s totally Elizabeth Holmes-esque, and a wild story of a young kid got too much power and how his mission spun terribly out of control. Just when you’re sitting there thinking about how much you hate this kid (you will) the zinger comes in the last episode, when you find out a legit Black woman doctor was trying to do the same thing, but denied by the city. It’s rage-inducing. This is a quick listen and the whole thing is solid—there’s no sagginess. Listen here.
⚡️News from Sounds Profitable⚡️
On Sounds Profitable (check out the newsletter and podcast,) Bryan Barletta makes the case for an industry-wide commitment to third-party verification. He explains that third-party verification in podcasting is accomplished by the hosting platform server-side firing the tracking URL, but this doesn’t work the same way it does with other third-party verification solutions. It’s an opportunity, and he talks about approaching it from a different perspective. Read/subscribe here.
🎙️The Iditarod kicked off yesterday, and you know what that means! Iditapod is back! Every year Alaska Public Media follows the famous sled dog race with daily episodes that take you out on the trail into checkpoints until the racers cross the finish line in Nome. Each episode is a mixture of interviews with mushers, behind-the-scenes news, and race coverage that always makes me feel like I’m on the sidelines. I love hearing all of the dog profiles (what are they wearing? their little booties!,) all the drama that happens on the trail, like the threat of dangerous moose (there are fascinating rules surrounding what mushers must do if a moose threatens their lives and this episode contains a terrifying moose story,) the tech and clothing issues, and how the weather impacts the race. Listening to the first episode of the season made me miss The Bello Collective. For years, this was a show that I listened to with many of the writers, cheering on the dogs and mushers with the Bello team. Now I feel like I’m listening all alone. :( Listen with me.
🎙️Offline with Jon Favreau has its own feed now and Jon interviewed Kara Swisher about the first social media war in Russia (Listen here—Kara also gives great interviewing tips for people who want to cut straight to the chase) and podcasts are social media so this is our first podcast war, too. I’ve been blown away stuff from by The Daily, The Takeaway, and The Take (particularly today’s episode from The Daily) but one of my favorite things was an episode on Private Parts Unknown. Courtney Kocak and Sofiya Alexandra are sending a love letter to Sofiya’s homeland: Ukraine — more specifically Odessa, where Sofiya grew up before immigrating to the US in 1994. We learn so much about Odessa—including things you don’t hear anywhere else about comedy in Ukraine (including Humorina, an annual festival of humor held in Odessa, around April Fools' Day, which sounds like a much better way to spend April 1,) Odessa’s food, Ukraine’s flag, and why we shouldn’t call Ukraine “The Ukraine.” Sofiya shared her homeland with us, it’s a heartfelt episode that gives so much context to the news we’re getting hit so hard with. Listen here.
🎙️The Allusionist has an entire episode dedicated to the tiny piece of paper required to be placed in every single Kinder Surprise Egg, which always has a toy inside, to warn people of the danger of putting a choking hazard inside a piece of candy intended for kids. It reads: Warning: read and keep. (Ten children worldwide have died from choking on parts of the Kinder toy surprises.) The warning is translated in 34 languages, but the choices of which languages used are loaded. Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris (who has written extensively about the subject) joins Helen Zaltzman to pick apart each language on the tiny sheet of paper, and talk about the contradiction of having a warning that Kinder doesn’t seem to want us to really read, and the meaning of the word “warning” in the first place. (It really doesn’t make sense—when you issue a warning, you are putting the onus on the reader and not really taking ownership of the risk at hand.) It’s linguistic anarchy. Keith doesn’t work for Kinder, he is reviewing the warning paper as a lover of language and someone curious about the world. Listen here.
🎙️8-year-old Dylan Helbig in Boise, Idaho did something I think a lot of us did when we were young if we wanted to be writers. He wrote a story (that involves Christmas and a pooping turkey) on the pages of a red-cover notebook and illustrated it with colored pencils called The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Chrismas. 8-year-olds have more ambition than anyone, and he wanted people to read it so badly he snuck into the Ada Community Library’s Lake Hazel Branch and hid it in the shelves. (8-year-old Lauren wishes she had thought of this for her time-traveling story that starred an 8-year-old named Eris, who was the girl version of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.) When the librarians found it, they issued it a bar code and formally add it to the library’s collection. Now there’s a nationwide wait-list to read it and publishers are calling. You have to listen to Phoebe Judge talk to Dillon on This Is Love about the story and Dylan’s mission to get his story in the hands of readers. This could be a one-off heart-warming story, or it could change the way we get books published. The question we are all asking: what is the podcast version? Listen here.
🎙️On an episode of Blocked Party (quickly becoming one of my favorite shows) Jamie Loftus talked (for the first time) about the focus of her upcoming audio project, spiritualism. It’s also a funny conversation about how Jamie got her Twitter handle permanently banned by The Olympics on Twitter. (“The biggest L of her entire life.”) At the end of the episode Jamie, Stefan Heck and John Cullen do a round-robin of sharing the most embarrassing “goblin meals” they prepare for themselves in private, which leads to some of the wildest food routines I’ve heard, a lot of awkward silences, and many “what is wrong with you?s.” Listen here.
🎙️20 Thousand Hertz had a tribute to Bob Ross that reminded me of one of my favorite podcasts of all time, Finding Fred. It takes a look at how Bob Ross got to be Bob Ross, why he thought it important to make (even unskilled) artists believe in painting, and why the tone he set was so revolutionary. I never would have watched an episode of Bob Ross, but I want to now, and many people do—without painting a thing. He’s not just teaching painting to paint, he’s teaching them to find calmness and beauty in the world, that art doesn’t have to be pretentious, and he’s giving us some serious ASMR. Listen here.
🎙️Once you listen to this episode of Imaginary Worlds, you will never see the world in the same way again. Eric Molinsky breaks down a shadow genre in sci-fi that presents old anti-Asian stereotypes in design, costumes, and props, without putting Asians on screen or behind the camera. Eric talks to David S. Roh about something called Techno-Orientalism, which is what you see when films depict futures with cold, unfeeling citizens who act like robots or backwards farmers (there’s a fascinating difference between the way Japan is depicted vs. China.) It’s all very telling about current anxieties in America. X-Ray Vision’s Jason Conception talks about what it’s like to be an Asian American sci-fi fan. Listen here.
🎙️On Let’s Make a Sci-Fi, comedians Ryan Beil, Maddy Kelly, and Mark Chavez are letting us eavesdrop into their writers room as they try to write a serious science fiction script. They are used to writing funny, not exactly scientific, and hearing them voice their ideas of what a legit sci-fi film could be is amusing—how do they craft a story without relying on funny tropes? What do they know about science fiction? In addition to getting in on their brainstorming sessions and their 24-hour sci-fi movie marathon, we get to hear them talk to Hollywood experts like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Rainn Wilson, and Emily VanDerWerff, who have worked on things like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly. I said this before about Who Killed Avril Lavigne, but this is sci-fi for people who don’t think they like sci-fi. It’s a great listen for funny people, writers, and aspiring ones. Listen here.
🎙️On Crumbs, Emmy Olea is opening up about her life as a trans woman who is trying to make sense of her life through stories about dating and her childhood. (I think that’s a good description, Crumbs is so unique and an elevator pitch does not give it justice.) Anyway, I am clinging to every word of it. With so much honesty and some really raw stories, I feel like I’m able to get a look inside Emmy’s life in a way I have not even considered about my own. The most recent story takes us through a bad relationship that illustrates the complicated process of trans dating. I wanted to step through my headphones and hug Emmy hard for minutes and minutes to the point she would be really freaked out. Listen here.
🎙️If Stephanie Foo does not sound familiar to you, you surely have heard her work. She’s produced pieces you’ve loved on Snap Judgment, Nancy, Bodies, and This American Life. (She also is the host of one of the best sponsored podcasts I’ve heard, from Rocket Mortgage, Home.Made., which released a great episode today.) On Snap Judgment, she talked to Glynn Washington about her memoir What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma that describes the intergenerational immigrant trauma and her own complex PTSD. Stephanie tells the story of Mimi Nguyen, whose mother, Thanh, has been holding secrets from her traumatic past—something lots of immigrants do. (I recently gifted my mother-in-law a year of Storyworth to force her to write down her own story of immigrating to the US from Taiwan—her answers are priceless.) Stephanie talks about how she dealt with trauma by working herself to death—on the very audio pieces you’ve probably been enjoying without realizing what went into them. This is a peek behind Stephanie and the stories she’s made, and the secrets that some of our parents and grandparents might have that explain so much about them. Listen here.
🎙️Throughline takes us on a rat safari, mapping the history of rats, where they came from, what drives their activity in our cities and subways, and the great brown rat migration. It’s a more gripping story than you might think, and it suggests that when we’re looking at rats, we’re looking at ourselves. Rats have evolved along with us and are a lot like us—so there is a lot we can learn from them, including something called behavioral sink, a collapse in behavior which can result from overcrowding. (Think: humans trying to kill and eat each other when forced to live in tight quarters.) It’s a philosophy that was later debunked by the man who invented it, but it was too late—it’s now an idea most people subscribe to. It’s more complicated than that. Get ready to feel empathy for rats, and truly fascinated by them. Listen here.
🎙️I listened to an episode on Vox Conversations hosted by Here Lies Me creator Hillary Frank about why teenagers are monsters, right after the Throughline rat piece and couldn’t help but make comparisons. There is an explanation for why teenagers are sullen, cranky, and desperate to both separate from their parents and to be considered by their peers. Looking at them in a petri dish it’s easy to empathize with them. Journalist and author Judith Warne offers so many ideas about their brains and motivation, and how to parent them better. And she points out that even though it seems like teenagers are changing, they really aren’t. (In fact, they’re getting nicer!) They’re pretty much the same teens that were teasing each other and calling their mom bitches a hundred years ago, just in a totally different and now digital setting. Listen Here.
🎙️There Are No Girls on the Internet is back for a new season, returning with an interview with Amanda Knox about what it’s like to be Amanda Knox on the internet. The episode asks the question: do we even own ourselves on the internet? Amanda talks about what it’s like to have her story being taken away from her and the things she’s had to do to protect her daughter. Bridget has launched a newsletter, and I encourage you to subscribe. I am endlessly fascinated by everything she is doing. (Note: she’s a client.) Sign-up here. Listen here.
🎙️Where’s My Jetpack? is looking at the retrofuturistic technology we’ve been promised by sci-fi films and The Jetsons and asking…where is it? Where’s my hoverboard? Where’s my Rosie? Where’s my jetpack? Sarah Cruddas and Luke Moore are going piece by piece, sifting through history and our current tech, to discover things that might someday happen, or even that already are. Your jetpack is here—it’s wild! And there are many smart ways we can use it. It’s both science fiction and science fact. Listen here.
🎙️On Secretly Incredibly Fascinating, Alex Schmidt, Jody Avirgan, and Benny Wayne Sully unlocked the world of junk mail (the physical kind) and I know this is the point of the show, but the next time I found junk mail in my mailbox I was more tickled than annoyed. It’s history and storytelling about the post office and how junk mail saved it, sorting, marketing, and it got me probably overly-interested in catalogues. Plus the reason it works against all odds (2% of people act on it—which is a small number that seems much bigger than it should be.) Listen here.
🎙️Last week I asked re: Who Killed Avril Lavigne, who are these people? And in a teensy bonus episode, the creators answered. They produced a piece that explains that they are just audio lovers who want to tell a good story, and they created a mini-drama that tells the story of the risk they take being a show that’s not just “two dudes talking about stuff.” (A fake) Dax Shepard makes an appearance. This show is breaking all the podcast rules and the result is something really funny and inventive. Listen here.
🎙️Do You Even Podcast has created Podcast Queued For You, a Spotify Playlist where Lainey Mays and Alex Hightower update need-to-listen podcast episodes directly to listeners. This is ever-evolving. (Think Spotify's Throwback Thursday playlist.) More here.
🎙️I love you!