gimlet media

PODCAST EPISODE #59: Eric Mennel, senior producer, Gimlet Media


My first podcast of the year was inspired by a podcast I found late last year.

I have listened to Gimlet Media’s StartUp Podcast on and off since its inception. This past December I rediscovered it thanks to a five-part series called StartupBus. The premise? Per Gimlet’s web site: “This past summer, 20 strangers got on a charter bus headed from New York to New Orleans. For three days they had one goal: Build and launch companies from inside the bus. And then? Compete against each other.”

Sound like a reality show? It did to Eric Mennel. The Gimlet senior producer pitched StartupBus as an episode, got on the bus, and realized after two days he had struck audio gold. He turned it into a five-part series, with one episode for each day of the competition.

Think about the challenge. Mennel faced the curse of few limits; he had plenty of time and roughly two dozen people who could potentially become main characters in his story. He needed to find them, figure out the main stories, remain open to new events, record it all, and then – upon returning – winnow an absurd amount of audio into 150 minutes of content.

Mennel succeeded. He joins me on Episode #59 of the Telling the Story podcast.


3 GREAT STORIES: Starring leftover gems from 2017

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Terry Crews: How to have, do, and be all you want (12/10/17, Tim Ferriss Show): I spent much of December catching up on podcasts, and I couldn’t stop listening to this one.

The Tim Ferriss Show often features engaging guests, but actor/former NFLer/furniture designer (?) Terry Crews captivates from Minute 1 to Minute 100. Ferriss knows how to prod a guest into a revealing story, but in this case he recognizes when to sit back and let Crews dominate. The guest provides piles of anecdotes about his childhood in Michigan, struggles with family and Hollywood, and words of inspiration for anyone needing a boost. (more…)

3 podcasts journalists should check out in 2016

If I haven’t made it clear before, I love podcasts.

I wrote about them last year. I wrote about them again last year. I even wrote about them three years ago when I first started this blog.

(And, of course, I maintain my own podcast, which just released its 40th episode and will post another new one next week.)

Very rarely, though, do I actually listen to podcasts that deal with what I do for a living.

Compelling journalism and storytelling podcasts are not necessarily hard to find; witness the innovative work regularly done by NPR, Gimlet Media, and others. But rarely do those podcasts actually address journalism and storytelling. I started my Telling The Story podcast in part because I sensed a void in podcasts that featured media members discussing their craft. Three years later, the podcasting world has expanded dramatically, with various newcomers mixing with old standbys to create a diverse mix for listeners to sample.

Here are three podcasts that, I feel, offer perspective that informs my work as a journalist:

On The Media

Speaking of NPR and old standbys, this has long been my main choice for intelligent discussions of the media landscape.

On The Media bills itself as a “weekly investigation into how the media shapes our world view”. Hosts Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone regularly prove up to the task, in their abilities to both frame topical news from a journalist’s lens and snag many of the newsmakers and news producers directly involved.

The podcast updates every Friday, though recently Gladstone and Garfield have begun adding shorter “extras” during the week. I particularly enjoyed Gladstone’s conversation last week with the makers of “fake news”, like the Daily Show and its ilk.

Social Media Social Hour

This one is a bit of a diamond in the rough … and it may not seem to directly translate to journalists and storytellers.

But for folks who do what I do — and who want to know how to spread their work across various social networks — it’s a winner.

The Social Media Social Hour podcast is hosted by Tyler Anderson, who runs a social media marketing company called Casual Fridays. (The link above, in fact, directs to the Casual Fridays blog.) Each week Anderson — sometimes solo but often with a guest — unfurls the complicated web of social media in a digestible, accessible way for anyone to understand.

His target audience may be entrepreneurs and marketers, but these days that umbrella somewhat includes journalists, who must constantly promote their work on Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

Surprisingly Awesome

Here is another podcast that, on the surface, might not seem directly related to journalism and storytelling … and yet its basic premise is essentially a storyteller’s primary building block.

Presented by Gimlet Media, the Surprisingly Awesome podcast delves into seemingly boring subjects that have an extraordinary back story or secret. It is hosted by Adam Davidson and Adam McKay, the latter of whom just took home an Oscar for writing and directing the Best Adapted Screenplay-winning The Big Short.

I loved the idea of this show from the beginning, but I especially love the vigor with which its hosts peel back the layers of whatever they happen to be discussing. I was hooked by their episode about the 1990s pop hit “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba, whose back story left me stunned.

As a journalist, I find essential the ability to take a news event and explain to people why it matters. This podcast regularly awakens my spirit.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at

3 podcasts I love in 2015

I am usually late to the game on cultural phenomena.

I started binge-watching 24 on Netflix when the show was already in its fifth season.

I first became enthralled with Mad Men seven years after it first hit the airwaves.

I didn’t start listening to the Beatles until 30 years after they broke up.

(Granted, I was not alive for the first eleven of those years, but still …)

Every now and then, though, I find myself ahead of the curve. Such is the case with podcasts.

I have been sampling and subscribing to podcasts since slightly after their inception, which Wikipedia pegs as somewhere in the 2004-05 range. Ten years later, the field seems to be catching up; podcasts continue to inch closer to mainstream use, and several of them have become legitimate moneymakers for their producers.

(Mine, by the way, is not one of them. I don’t make any money from the Telling The Story podcast; I simply do it, much like I write this blog, for the joy and value it brings.)

Last Saturday, facing a five-hour road trip by myself and feeling overloaded on recent music, I decided to scour the landscape for new podcasts. I was not disappointed. Ten days of binge-listening later, I find myself again excited for the future of a medium that finally seems to be getting its legs.

Here are three podcasts I’d recommend to anyone interested in a mind-expanding good time: (more…)