Over the course of four seasons, the Peabody-nominated podcast “Scene on Radio,” a production of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, has earned a reputation for tackling head-on difficult topics around race, gender, justice and equity. But it didn’t start out that way.
It started life as a documentary anthology that host and producer John Biewen calls a “hodge podge.” Then, for the second season John decided to take on race in America by exploring the history and meaning of whiteness. That season, “Seeing White,” forged a new path for the podcast, proving that there was an audience willing to take a deep dive into challenging topics.
John joins the show this week to talk about “Scene on Radio,” and help us understand why and how a white male radio journalist, such as himself, can and should spearhead critical examinations of whiteness and men – the topic of season three – and a revisionist history of democracy in America, as in the current season, “The Land That Never Has Been.” Though he takes on much of the production work himself, for analysis and guidance he turns to co-hosts like Celeste Headlee (“Men”) and Rutgers professor Chenjerai Kumanyika, alongside the many historians and experts who provide facts and perspective.
Though the podcast is unflinching in challenging accepted and closely-held narratives and beliefs, John notes that he’s received relatively little backlash, and tells us why he thinks that is. He also gives us a peek behind the scenes at how he produces a multi-part documentary podcast, and how he and Chenjerai navigate their signature introductions and wrap-ups that help listeners digest each episode.Show Notes
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