The Political Podcast We Need: We The Ppl

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wethepplBy Zora Ilunga-Reed

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]his past summer, in need of a project, I started a podcast. Boredom wasn’t my only reason for beginning We the Ppl, though. For the entire election year until that point, I had noticed that I’d been receiving the same response to my political interests. I’d be having a spirited political debate with someone. Excitedly making a point I thought was profound, informed, and witty I’d have been talking for a while when they’d interrupt me. “That’s interesting, but you know you can’t vote.” Just like that, my profound, informed, witty point was lost. The conversation would inevitably end there, leaving me dissatisfied with their response to my excellent point and annoyed at the lack of understanding adults always seem to possess. So, I guess you could say I started We the Ppl out of teenage angst.

When my grandparents’ friends ask me what exactly it is I’m doing with the podcast, I like to answer that I’m covering the election and other political events from a fresh perspective. That’s my elevator pitch. When my friends ask me what exactly it is I’m doing with the podcast, I tell them that I’m hoping to give people a sense of the what the election is like to young people, but in reality I’m just broadcasting another voice into the blackhole of homemade media. I know that sounds horribly pessimistic, but it couldn’t be more true. In recent years there’s been an uptick in poorly written blogs by people who all feel that they have a uniquely individual outlook on the world. And I’m certainly one of them. So when I ask myself what exactly I’m doing with the podcast, I tend to say that I’m hoping to increase the level of interest in politics among young people and that I felt there was a lack of diversity in the voices heard talking politics in mass media. This is perhaps the most true response.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap]’ve been interested in politics since day one. During the 2008 election, my siblings and I created pro-Obama propaganda on the weekends and wore primarily Obama campaign shirts on the weekdays. We went to D.C. for the inauguration and watched as, miles away from us on the Mall, the first black president was sworn in. From 2008 to 2012 to 2016, I’ve always followed presidential races pretty closely, especially for my age group. So when every person I speak with about politics responded with the patronizing “you can’t vote” line or, in the case of my peers, “what does that even mean” I realized there was a difference in the way I approached politics and the way other young people do. This isn’t to say that my way is better. I wake up every morning and immediately check CNN, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and Al Jazeera English. That’s just the way I like to wake up and it certainly isn’t the better way. You can definitely live your day-to-day without reading up on the latest failed ceasefire in Aleppo or the lack of change in the federal reserve interest rate. After all, I can’t vote so my opinion on any of these issues will have little to no impact whatsoever. But to the extent that I all these news platforms are free, that I can still check Snapchat right after, and that I will be able to vote in 2020 and don’t want to make an uninformed decision, I think it’s worth the couple minutes it takes to skim through the latest news update.

The second reason I started WTP is because of the lack of diversity in newsrooms. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to define “diversity” here as the state of being diverse in all ways, not just the with its typical connotation of race. Throughout America, newsrooms are strikingly homogenous. An Atlantic article from July of 2015 confirms this: “In 2014, all minority groups accounted for 22.4 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13.34 percent of journalists at daily newspapers. Pretty pathetic, considering the fact that minorities make up 37.4 percent of the U.S. population.” Furthermore, a Huffington Post article from July of 2013 found that women “make up only 38 percent of newsroom staff.” Sure, journalism isn’t doing as poorly as, say, politics which, as of 2015, was boasting a 79.8% white House and 94% white Senate. And let’s not even get into the financial sector. Clearly, there are problems with minority and female representation in many fields in the U.S.. The problem, however, with there being such an extreme lack of heterogeneity in journalism is that the field, by its very nature, is created to spread information to a diverse group of people. When news and information are only coming from one type of person (white men, primarily) and being edited and produced by that same type of person the quality of said news and information is compromised. As both a woman and a racial minority (not to mention an age minority), I figured it would be both interesting and important to share news and information from my inherently different perspective.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]his election year feels like an anomaly. A failed businessman with no political experience and sketchy methods of success is the Republican nominee. The most scrutinized grandmother the world has ever seen who may or may not have broken federal law a number of times is the Democratic nominee. Both nominees have gotten away with things that, four years ago, they would have received major repercussions for. Slurs and scandals have dominated the press. It’s the perfect time to jump on the media bandwagon. There’s just so much to talk about. America is airing her dirty laundry in the form of a vicious political movement and extensive Twitter wars. So when I say I started We the Ppl out of teenage angst, boredom, and a want to create unique news coverage, that’s really an oversimplification of it. What we’re seeing right now is a shift in the political tide, a fundamental change in the way politics goes in America. And that shift just happens to be in the favor of and at the perfect time for a homemade media platform entirely run by a racial, gender, and age minority.