Invasion of the Pod People
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June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts – and if you’ve ever listened to a Slate podcast, you’re probably already familiar with her affable Northern English accent.
Through her two decades on staff, Thomas has featured in the outlet’s popular ‘Gabfests’ (Culture, Political) The Waves (née Double X Gabfest), and helmed projects like The Americans (analysing the TV series of the same name) and Afterword (a 30-episode exploration of the art of non-fiction writing). The pioneering New York-based digital magazine joined the podcast game early, and with vigour; today, it continues to produce hugely popular talk-based shows. Thomas has been there to observe it all.
She’s also been the publication’s foreign editor, as well as the editor and podcast host of its LGBTQ+ section, Outward. A respected cultural critic, she’s known for her unorthodox tastes. She’s big on podcasts about pens and pencils – and subscribes to the member magazine of the American Dental Association.
Join us in December for a chat with June Thomas about the value of niche culture, the maturation of podcasting, and what makes a conversation worth eavesdropping on.
So You Think You Can Pod
In the second part of this event, Thomas will lend us her ears as a judge of So You Think You Can Pod – the Wheeler Centre’s search for new, audible ideas, now open for entries – alongside comedian and Short Cuts presenter Josie Long (appearing via video link from the UK), radio producer and Broadwave co-founder Areej Nur, and Sophie Black and Jon Tjhia from the Wheeler Centre.
June Thomas is senior managing producer of the Slate Podcast Network and has worked at the magazine for more than 21 years. A former managing editor and foreign editor, she also wrote about television and popular culture and founded Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. She started podcasting in 2005, when she produced the daily Explainer, and has since hosted series about TV shows and books and produced three seasons of a behind-the-scenes show about the TV spy thriller The Americans.
Often described as a unique voice in comedy, Josie is one of the most respected comedians of her generation. She started stand-up at age 14 and went on to win the BBC New Comedy Award.
She has continued to perform stand-up around the world and her eighth solo stand-up show, Something Better, had a sell-out two weeks at the Soho Theatre in London, followed by a two-week run at the Barrow Street Theatre New York.
On TV and radio, Josie has appeared on The News Quiz, Just A Minute, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Skins, 8 out of 10 Cats, Drunk History and Russell Howard’s Stand-Up Central. Josie has also worked extensively in factual areas – she investigated the rise of online comedy for The Culture Show on BBC2 and is the presenter and writer of Radio 4’s Short Cuts, in its 13th series.
Sophie Black is Head of Publishing at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the new national writers scheme The Next Chapter, The Messenger podcast (Grand Trophy and two Gold Medals, New York Festivals Radio Awards 2017; UNAA Media Award for Best Radio Documentary; Walkley Award for Radio/Audio Feature; Australian Human Rights Commission Media Award) and the ABC Radio National program Talkfest.
Jon Tjhia is the Wheeler Centre’s Senior Digital Editor.
He has worked on the Wheeler Centre's multimedia, editorial and digital projects since 2010, including #discuss, the short-form multimedia series Housekeeping, and long-form podcast series Better Off Dead and The Messenger, which won several awards. He's a co-editor and co-founder of the Australian Audio Guide, and a member of the 2018 New York Festivals Radio Awards Grand Jury.
Elsewhere, Jon produces the Paper Radio literary fiction and creative non-fiction podcast, plays music with Speed Painters and has served on Audiocraft's 2017 programming committee. In 2016, he was a top-ten finalist in Radiotopia's Podquest competition.
In the last few years, podcasts have matured into the storytelling format du jour – with a little help from a certain sensationally popular true crime serial (ahem). Yet the surge of interest and excitement around audio features and podcasts has been gaining momentum for even longer, propelled by a diversity of formats.
Take the narrative artisanship of This American Life or the sonic vivacity of Radiolab; the topical deep dives of Slate’s Culture Gabfest or Phillip Adams’s Late Night Live; the animated storytelling of The Moth or Sum of All Parts; or the intimate conversations found in Death, Sex and Money or WTF with Marc Maron. The influence of these and countless other shows can be felt in today’s most interesting podcasts (insert shameless plug for the Wheeler Centre’s own successful forays into richly-produced feature-making, including Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead, and The Messenger, here).
Beloved for their sense of proximity, their active listenership, portability and in some cases, ambitiously-crafted audio, podcasts have a unique ability to keep listeners in the company of their own choosing – and to render mundane tasks bearable. And since design show 99% Invisible’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns – podcasts have also shown promise in otherwise dim times for media businesses. What’s next for podcasting – and how could it be done better?
In celebration of all things audible, we’re bringing you some of podcasting’s best and brightest to share their thoughts and insights on the art (and business) of listening.