Media Activism: Podcasts

I’m currently taking a class at Kutztown called Activists Writing Media: Composing Democratic Futures (yes, it’s as rad as it sounds). We’ve just finished reading The Alternative Media Handbook, which discusses various forms of alternative media and their uses throughout recent history. In my next few blog posts, I’ll be exploring a few of those forms and their use in vegan advocacy.

This time: Podcasts!

Podcasts are great for distributing content online that is easily accessible to your audience. Think of it like a radio show that can be downloaded to your computer or mp3 player and heard anytime, anywhere. Like zines, podcasts are low-tech and their alternative channels of distribution bypasses the need to frame arguments in a way that is consistent with the journalistic hegemony. As Magz Hall says in her article “You Are Hear,” “Being able to dispense with media gatekeepers and broadcast totally independently on demand is liberating, although the immediacy of live radio is lost” (118).

In today’s technologically advanced world, practically anyone with a laptop can put together a podcast and broadcast it online. While it helps to have a good microphone, your laptop’s mic will work well enough if you don’t have the funds. Mac users can record and edit audio using GarageBand, which comes standard on all computers. Audacity is free, open source audio recording & editing software downloadable on most operating systems.

Unlike radio broadcasting, which has great geographical limitations, “podcasting provides a way of connecting with a geographically dispersed community,” according to Andrew Dubber (276). This doesn’t only mean the connection between the podcaster and the audience—the team making the podcast may be geographically disperse as well, thanks to technology such as Skype or Google+ Hangouts. Hosts can talk to each other in an online conference call, with each one recording their own audio and sending the file to one person who will put them together, adjust volumes, and add finishing touches before posting. Kelly Peloza and I experimented with this technique a few years ago in our own endeavor to create a podcast about vegan activism from farm to kitchen. Unfortunately our project never got off the ground, but we were successful in recording and being able to edit our first episode. This technique is also great for conducting interviews without having to have the interviewee physically there.

Once a podcast is put together, there are a number of free ways to host it online and get it distributed. Dubber mentions WordPress, Blogger, and feedburner.com as a few helpful options. iTunes is the most commonly used because of its intuitive use, organization, and accessibility. You can search for specific podcasts or general topics in the iTunes store, and once you find one you like, subscribe to it and new episodes will automatically download to your computer. Best of all, almost all podcasts are free.

One of the biggest cons about podcasting is that they’re still fairly new, and not everyone knows about or listens to them yet. If you want to create your own podcast, Dubber recommends you “be as helpful as possible to your audience by making it as clear and simple as you possibly can to subscribe and listen” (278).

My favorite podcasts are:

  • The Vegan Police – provides discussion on issues surrounding veganism and on-the-streets activism
  • Our Hen House – covers vegan news and events to help inspire listeners to find their own way to change the world for animals
  • The Cosmopolitan Hour – a less serious podcast full of shenanigans and lighthearted banter

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