From amateur pitches to She Says, WFAE’s Joni Deutsch on ear-opening experiences

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Courtesy of WFAE
Joni Deutsch

If you live in the Charlotte area and enjoy listening to your media, chances are you’ve encountered some of Joni Deutsch’s work. As WFAE’s manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, this Charlotte radio personality has worked on a variety of podcasts, including She Says, Southbound, FAQ City and Amplifier, which she hosts. Lately she’s been working on WFAE’s newest radio venture, Queen City PodQuest, in which one creative Charlottean’s podcast pitch will be accepted and produced alongside the WFAE team. We picked Joni’s brain on all things radio and podcasting, what it’s like listening to more than 380 podcast pitches in a row, and life in Charlotte since her move.

(1) You’ve got a lot of experience in public radio, but you’re still somewhat new to Charlotte. What’s the experience been like in this city?

It’s been the very opposite of dull. It seems like each day, I’m either discovering a new story about Charlotte’s past or have the pleasure of meeting a community innovator who’s passionate about Charlotte’s future. You can just feel the city humming with energy.

(2) Tell me about your experience working on the She Says podcast. What was the most fulfilling part for you?

She Says was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. With this 24-hour “always breaking” news cycle, it’s hard to slow down to tell a story from start to finish, as well as show empathy and even-sided reporting throughout the process, which is why I appreciated the work put into this podcast. Major credit to host Sarah Delia, reporter Alex Olgin, editor Greg Collard, and chief content officer Ju-Don Marshall for working so many long hours in making this investigative podcast come to life, as well as “Linda” for bravely sharing her story with listeners, both near and far, throughout this podcast.

(3) You recently listened to more than 380 podcast pitches for WFAE’s Queen City PodQuest competition. What was that like going through all of them?

It was an ear-opening experience, that’s for sure. It’s a rare experience to binge-listen to that many different podcasts in a short span of time. Listening through each of the entries was like listening to the souls of Charlotte, hearing their hopes and struggles and dreams for their families, their communities and their future. It was heartwarming to see practically every neighborhood (and podcast genre!) represented in these entries.

(4) What was the inspiration for Queen City PodQuest?

It’s a great way for WFAE to bridge the gap between the “what WFAE does” and “what the community wants to hear” — to let the community in. And as far as I can tell, there’s never been anything like this for Charlotte, for North Carolina, or for the South. This says there is an appetite for this here and that shows like this can be made here. It came about because of a grant through the Knight Foundation.

(5) What was the most outrageous pitch?

While I wouldn’t call them “outrageous,” we did receive a few podcast pitches for fictional audio-dramas (à la George Orwell’s legendary radio production of “War of the Worlds” or contemporary podcasts like “Welcome to Night Vale”). To note, fictional podcasts are not as “mainstream” as non-fiction podcasts.

Courtesy of Joni Deutsch

(6) The pitch that felt the most “Charlotte”?

That’s a great question. While we have received podcast submissions for Charlotte-ish topics — like banking and healthcare and regional sports coverage — we have also received a number of submissions about Charlotte’s identity with pitches that explore major Charlotte events that have collected dust in the history books. Which is, in my opinion, a quintessential Charlotte question: What is Charlotte (and the “how,” “why,” and “when” therein)?

(7) Everybody wants to start their own podcast. Any tips for creating a good one after listening to so many ideas?

Authenticity is key. As a podcast listener, the best podcasts are the ones where you are pulled into the story because of the sincerity of the host and the audio, because their conversation or topic resonates with your life, and because you trust them to provide an experience that you can’t pull your ears away from. As a podcast host, being comfortable in your audio-loving skin and confident that your work stands apart from the more than 600,000 podcasts out there on Apple.

(8) Your favorite podcast (aside from those you work on)?

Recently I’ve been listening to this podcast called You Must Remember This. It’s really cool because it’s all about the 20th century age in Hollywood and it’s basically a one-woman show. It’s minimal music and more of just the host sharing these stories.  

(9) You also host WFAE’s Amplifier podcast —what’s the best part about hosting the Amplifier podcast in particular?

To be honest, I really didn’t expect to host another music show (after having done them for a few years at West Virginia’s public radio station and NPR Music’s Mountain Stage). But coming down to Charlotte and seeing the wealth of musical talent here, I was so happy to find that there was interest in a show that highlighted the artists who call Charlotte home.

(10) Other insights into other upcoming projects?

I’m happy to report that our community podcast initiatives are continuing well past the Queen City PodQuest and when we crown the PodQuest winner at our live event later in the spring. Whether you participated in the PodQuest or are waiting to put pen to paper (or voice to microphone!) for a podcast, WFAE is working on making 2019 the year for podcasts in Charlotte with resources and trainings. As for our continuing series, keep an ear on WFAE’s current slate of podcasts and shows like Amplifier, Charlotte Talks, FAQ City and SouthBound for live events and some podcast surprises.

Responses were lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

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