Project Catapult Launches Public Media Podcasts

June 21, 2017

Project Catapult Showcase

Seven public media stations presented their podcasts at the Project Catapult Showcase in Boston. Photo by Adrienne Mathiowetz

Audiences can explore Latino culture in the Midwest or hear stories of Nashville in verse through podcasts developed through an innovative podcast training program from PRX and funded by a $1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Project Catapult brought together seven public media stations across the country to work with PRX, the public media creator and distributor that runs the Radiotopia podcast network, to develop their podcasts and improve their capacity to produce digital content that is sustainable and relevant.

“Catapult drew our attention because of the built-in training focused on podcast development — the promise of skills that would ripple beyond just one podcast,” said Tony Gonzalez, reporter at WPLN, Nashville. “It proved to be a program more akin to ‘teaching a man to podcast’ instead of just giving him a single podcast.”

The five-month boot camp kicked off in January at the PRX Podcast Garage in Cambridge, Mass., and concluded earlier this month with a live showcase in Boston. The program has helped stations lay groundwork for more digital innovation and has brought a cohort of diverse voices into public media podcasting.

“Podcasts allow public media stations to innovate and build multiplatform capacity in a low-risk environment,” said Erika Pulley-Hayes, CPB vice president, radio. “They also provide a fresh avenue for new audiences to discover public media.”

Three of the participating stations brought concepts to the Podcast Garage and four — St. Louis Public Radio, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Baltimore's WYPR and San Francisco's KALW— brought nascent podcasts that they hoped to take to the next level.  The Project Catapult curriculum included not only digital content development but also audience engagement and monetization, important aspects for building sustainability and multimedia capacity. 

Us & Them-WVPB
"Hillers and Creekers"

"I’ve worked on other public radio projects, but none of them focused on serving a digital first audience the way PRX is with design thinking. Today we’re using what we’ve learned to make ‘We Live Here’ a better show, but tomorrow these skills will help us discover more pathways toward meaningful connection with a diverse public," said Tim Lloyd, co-host of St. Louis Public Radio’s ‘We Live Here.’

“The ideas of creating nimble prototypes, testing them and iterating are becoming baked into our operation,” Gonzalez of WPLN said. “And I think we’ve learned a lot about the different publishing tempo in podcasting — as well as the amount of foresight needed to methodically work toward our goals.”

Versify-Nashville Public Radio 

Project Catapult podcasts and stations:

  • Inflection Point, KALW-San Francisco. Creator and host Lauren Schiller shares stories of extraordinary women leading change.
  • Us & Them, West Virginia Public Radio. Launched in 2015 from award-winning producer Trey Kay, “Us & Them” features issues, disputes or ideas that divide people into longstanding, entrenched camps.
  • We Live Here, St. Louis Public Radio. This podcast, launched after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, continues its in-depth exploration of how systemic racism affects communities in and around St. Louis. 
  • Que Pasa Midwest, WNIN-Evansville, Ind. This bilingual podcast, hosted by WNIN’s Paola Marizan, tells the stories of Latinos chasing their American Dream, El Sueño Americano, in the Midwest.
  • Versify, Nashville Public Radio-WPLN. Premiering in August, “Versify” has Nashville poets travel to neighborhoods across the city, hear stories from people they’ve never met, and then capture them in verse.
  • Out of the Blocks, WYPR-Baltimore. Each episode is a collage of life-stories from a single city block and features sounds from the block fused with an original musical score.
  • Second Wave, KUOW-Seattle. In “Second Wave,” premiering in August, host Thanh Tan will share her quest to better understand her Vietnamese American identity and to explore the heartbreak and triumph of refugees who fled Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War to pursue new lives in the United States.  

For more on Project Catapult, the podcasts and where and when you can subscribe, go to https://catapult.prx.org/