Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pints & Politics: The Little Peterborough Podcast that Grew

Like many of my projects, this one started out high on ideals and low on practical details. Back in April, I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to interview candidates for city council, and produce podcasts that they could use in their online campaigns?" Then I heard a Trent Radio ad looking for summer programmers; I pitched my idea for a show on local politics. This would let me contribute to the election debate. Five months later, this modest little project has turned into an all-consuming monster. I recall a novelist saying that "This book started out as a playful diversion, then it became a habit, then it turned in a chore, then it became a job, and finally, it morphed into a master to whom I am chained as a slave."
Trent Radio liked the idea enough to let me try, although they made it very clear that they had a CRTC license to uphold and fundraising campaigns to run, so my program must give equal time to all sides and not become a bully pulpit for my pet causes. No partisan jabs at pro-Parkway candidates. I decided to call the show Pints & Politics after the modest weekly gathering of pundits I host at the Garnet pub. I was admonished to not advocate beer-drinking on air. The talented volunteers at Peterborough Independent Podcasters showed me how to convert the recordings of my shows to podcasts. I was ready to launch.
I sent out an email note to all the declared candidates at the time. Zach Hatton bravely volunteered to be first. Zach and I went live to air on May 1; he graciously stifled his laughter as he watched me fumble with switches and sliders on the control panel. More than once I forget to turn up the microphone volume so that I was mumbling through a profound question that only Zach, and not our listening audience, could actually hear. While the sins of live radio are there for all to hear, only the listening audience actually hears them, then they are gone.
I soon discovered that I was able to edit such bloopers out of my podcasts, much to my considerable relief. Hence my fascination with podcasting. All my verbal miscues could be swiftly excised from an audio file with a few clicks of a mouse. Never a smooth public speaker, the technology covered up the worst of my bumbling incompetence.
My next candidate was Dave McGowan. Imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I discovered that Dave is a veteran broadcast journalist, having worked in radio and television for many years across Ontario, including a stint with CHEX Newswatch. So there I was, perched awkwardly in a broadcast studio I did not understand in the least, while across from me sat the broadcast equivalent of Wayne Gretzky.
Dave speaks effortlessly with none of the mumbles and stumbles that come out of me. He was completely at home in the studio, while I, the putative host, was utterly in over my head. Switches were forgotten, volume levels were not checked and there were frequent patches of dead air when I forgot to adjust inscrutable levers on the control panel.
The half-hour radio broadcast was a total shambles, but thanks to the aforementioned editing software, I was able to produce a 16-minute podcast. Dave still smiles broadly when we run into each other at campaign events; he has been my most patient and forgiving guest.
Of all the 27 registered candidates for the municipal election, I interviewed 21. The other 6 chose not to be interviewed; I have to respect their decisions. Municipal elections are won or lost at the doors; door-to-door canvassing is the sine qua non of election campaigning. Radio broadcasts are not. And podcasting may still be too geeky for mass appeal. There are now 33 episodes on the Pints & Politics website. In addition to the 21 candidate interviews, there are panel discussions on local politics, and campaign launch speeches from Therrien and Bennett.
My conclusion in talking with these 21 candidates is that Peterborough is blessed to have so many smart and accomplished citizens willing to run for office. I interviewed candidates I was thoroughly prepared to dislike because of their perceived political allegiances; I discovered they had much to teach me. My only regret is that now I wish I could vote for two candidates in every ward. Contrary to Doug Ford, I believe we need more councilors, not fewer.
Bill Templeman is the host of Pints & Politics, a Trent Radio show on 92.7 FM every Wednesday at 9 p.m. This show is also available anytime as a podcast at https://pintsandpolitics.ptbopodcasters.ca/

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