A "Way of Improvement Leads Home" Podcast?

I just read a post by Alan Jacobs on podcasting.  He writes:

…Over the past several years I have listened to dozens and dozens of podcasts, on a very wide range of subjects, with the result that there is now not a single podcast that I listen to regularly.

Podcasts, overall, are

(1) People struggling to articulate for you stuff you could find out by looking it up on Wikipedia (e.g. In Our Time);

(2) People using old-timey radio tricks to fool you into thinking that a boring and inconsequential story is fascinating (e.g. Serial);

(3) People leveraging their celebrity in a given field as permission to ramble incoherently about whatever happens to come to their minds (e.g. The Talk Show); or

(4) People using pointless audio-production tricks to make a pedestrian story seem cutting-edge (e.g. Radiolab).

The world of podcasting desperately needs people to take it seriously and invest real thought and creativity into it. There are a lot of not-so-smart people who invest all they have in podcasts; there are a lot of smart people who do podcasts as an afterthought, giving them a fraction of the attention they give to their “real work.” So far it’s a medium of exceptional potential almost wholly unrealized.

As a few of you know, I have been thinking about starting a podcast.  Since podcasts (from all reports) are a lot of work, I am wondering whether I have the time to do it right.  

Perhaps the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home can serve as a sort of podcast exploratory committee.  What would you like to see in a TWOILH podcast?  Feel free to share in the comment section below, on Facebook, or via e-mail: jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu

9 thoughts on “A "Way of Improvement Leads Home" Podcast?

  1. Right. Like I said, unless you're planning on doing it full-time and hiring a full-time staff, it's just not remotely feasible.

    But I would be interested in either (a) an interview show loosely like MHAJ (that is, interview a scholar on a new book) or (b) something like Backstory, where you and guests talk through little known or largely misunderstood or under-appreciated gems in history.


  2. Mark: We could never do anything close to Mars Hill. On the other hand, we do not want to go cheap either. I think we are going to do a kind of radio show with a guest and some academic-related banter. I am working with a former student/history graduate student who knows his stuff.


  3. Along with Alan and his commenters, I'd say that nothing beats Mars Hill Audio. Part of what makes it so great is that Ken Myers is something of a polymath in the range of topics on which he is conversant. But beyond that, there's simply the excellence of the whole production: Ken's introductions, his commentary, his questions, the sound quality and superior editing…

    Now, your podcast needn't–and surely couldn't–equal MHAJ, since MHAJ is an independent operation with three full-time employees. But it shouldn't be an afterthought or throwaway–otherwise you risk falling into Alan's latter category, the really smart person who does a podcast as an afterthought.

    So my question for you would be whether you would have the time, energy, resources, and audio expertise to do it well. If so, do it! It would be great! If not… better no podcast than an amateurish one.

    But if you selected your guests well, prepared thoughtful questions, edited judiciously, and used decent audio recording and editing equipment…


  4. I agree –if you could fit it into your already busy routine it would be great. I have listened to some of the New Books Network interviews and it seems history / religion topics are not as sharp as they could be. It seems asking the right kind of questions to engender discussion is the trick.


  5. Thanks, Jana. I appreciate the encouragement on this. I had a brainstorming session today with a former student who is going to help me get things rolling. Perhaps an early 2016 launch.


  6. I would love this. I would want you to do interviews with historians about their new books and articles. This would be a service to me because I just can't keep up with the field anymore, but also I think it would be a service to them to have a regular podcast HOSTED BY AN ACTUAL HISTORIAN WHO KNOWS WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT WHEN HE ASKS THE QUESTIONS. You already do this on your blog, but a podcast offers the opportunity to go into greater depth and also for historians to go a little more rogue than they might if they are preparing emailed answers in advance. I like hearing scholars off script.


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