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. Hosted by Sophie Black.
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.
Drinks available for purchase on the night.
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.
Areej Nur is a radio producer, presenter and educator. She is also co-founder of the podcast network Broadwave. Most of Areej’s work seeks to support women of colour, particularly black women, to be at the forefront of conversations about media, arts, race and feminism in Australia.
Sophie Black is head of special projects at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the writers scheme The Next Chapter, the podcast mentoring scheme Signal Boost, the multi-award-winning podcast, The Messenger, and the ABC RN program, Talkfest.
Previously she was editor-in-chief at Private Media and she is the former editor of Crikey. She has delivered the Adelaide Festival of Ideas as Director, sits on the advisory board for Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism and is co-chair of the human rights publication Right Now.
Jon Tjhia was the Wheeler Centre’s Senior Digital Editor.
He worked on the Wheeler Centre's multimedia, editorial and digital projects from 2010–2020, 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 has been a member of Audiocraft's programming committee, the Walkley Awards' Radio/Audio Feature judging panel, the New York Festivals Radio Awards Grand Jury and ABC RN's Ian Reed Foundation committee for audio fiction/drama.
Elsewhere, Jon produces the Paper Radio literary fiction and creative non-fiction podcast, makes the occasional radio thing, writes essays and plays music with Speed Painters. In 2016, he was a top-ten finalist in Radiotopia's Podquest competition.
Better Off Dead was named Finalist at New York Festivals Radio Awards 2016. The Messenger was awarded the Grand Trophy and two Gold Medals at New York Festivals Radio Awards 2017; the 2017 UNAA Media Award for Best Radio Documentary; the 2017 Walkley Award for Radio/Audio Feature; and (with Behind the Wire's They Cannot Take the Sky), the 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission Media Award. It was also a finalist at the 2017 Quill Awards, and runner-up for the 2018 Whicker's Documentary Audio Recognition Award.
Previously, as a digital producer at ABC Radio Australia, Jon developed websites in seven languages, interviewed musicians from around the Pacific Islands, and provided multi-platform coverage of that region’s largest music festival, Fest'napuan. He’s occasionally involved in art and sound projects (including a collaborative residency in Wiluna, Western Australia, Eavesdropping at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, and the Soundhouse programme at London's Barbican Centre) and has presented, suggested and advised on sound design and audio storytelling at an armful of festivals, conferences and email threads.
He holds a BA (Cultural Studies) and MMm. The latter is an actual postnominal, although your cooking is indeed good.
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.
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.