New Class Unpacks Power of Podcasting
Anderson University students are plugging into podcasting.
Although podcasting has been around for a while, it has exploded in recent years as millions of listeners connect to podcasts on a seemingly mind-boggling variety of topics, covering every conceivable interest.
The trend may be due in part to our pandemic-imposed isolation a couple of years ago or even some of us who get screen-weary and are seeking forms of entertainment, education and edification that’s easier on the eyes.
Professor Bobby Rettew of the Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences created a class devoted to podcast creation. Rettew, who also owns his own agency, Rettew Creative, produces podcasts professionally for a variety of clients. At the start of fall semester, he launched a new course being offered by the Communication Department in the College of Arts and Sciences for students to learn about planning, creating, producing and marketing audio podcasts like the pros.
So, what’s special about this audio-only medium of podcasting?
“It’s easy. You can sit around, put it on and be doing your everyday menial tasks—cooking, cleaning, working. It’s just right there,” said Colin Calvert, a student in the podcasting course. “It’s helped me a lot on long road trips, family vacations… I’ll be going four hours away and have to have some form of entertainment. Music won’t do it for me all of the time so I enjoy listening to podcasts.”
Calvert, a sophomore from Spartanburg, South Carolina who is the announcer at AU Trojans games, is taking his passion for sports into “Questions and Athletes (Q&A),” a podcast where listeners get to know who student-athletes are when they’re not engaged in competition.
Podcasts offer a free forum for exploring all sorts of ideas. In her podcast, “Reasonable Faith,” Gillian Brown interviews students and professors and deals with questions about God that many in her generation have.
“I wanted to see if there was a way that I could reach out to them and say ‘Okay, how can we think about this logically rather than just saying we need to have faith?’,” said Brown, a double major in communication and theatre from Asheville, North Carolina. Brown admits to being nervous about the technical aspects of recording and editing, but praised Professor Rettew, saying, “He brought me in from an absolute beginner’s level and got me all the way to a finished product in one semester. So that was pretty cool.”
Emerson Courtney, a sophomore from Summerville, South Carolina, has been following podcasts for years and even started recording a podcast when she was 16. She says, “I think podcasting, out of all the other forms of communication, is just extra special because it feels more personal.” Courtney, a digital media and public relations major, has been creating her podcast “Becoming: Growing into Adulthood.” She interviews her guests, who include upperclassmen and various mentors, and also her own parents and grandparents about life advice in general.
Caroline Mason, a senior from Pennsylvania, wanted her podcast to resonate with others like her who grew up as “missionary kids” or “third culture kids.” She chose to name her podcast “See You Later,” partially as a nod to a phrase she grew up hearing, “It’s not a ‘goodbye,’ it’s a ‘see you later.’”
“It was all brand new territory for me. I listened to a lot of podcasts before,” Mason said. “This is my first time creating my own and thinking about ‘what do I want to say? This will be public, it will be online. Is it something I want out there in the world?’”
Students record interviews at the Chiquola Digital Media Studio in downtown Anderson (a fully funded 2022 A Day Cause) or on portable equipment. Much of the editing takes place in the Watkins Digital Media Studio at the College of Arts and Sciences.
These students are learning that creating podcasts is much more than just making recordings and posting them online. There’s much to learn about planning, writing, interviewing and editing. Also, once a podcast is online, students learn how to track audience metrics to gain insights on who’s listening.
Mason said, “We had to create a whole branding document at the beginning, so in terms of marketing, we’ve had to think through ‘how do we want this to be presented?’”
“I’ve learned everything from the ground up,” Courtney said, “how to record, use all of the equipment and edit, but also the soft skills of talking to people and working around other people’s schedules… I have to be the one to reach out and make it happen.”
A complete list of student-produced podcasts can be found here. Details about the majors offered by the Anderson University Department of Communication can be found online.