This week my class focused on learning about podcasts. I produce one. It’s on Sound Cloud. It is the product of a challenge I made for myself. Each episode’s about a dozen minutes long and I talk to people with whom I enjoy talking. The beautiful part about the podcast is that no one I’ve asked to be a part of it has said no. The bad bit is that it takes more time than I ever thought it would. Because of this, I don’t release episodes on a regular basis, and that makes it difficult to generate a following other than my husband and parents who always support me.
What I didn’t realize until this week was that podcasts have waxed and waned in their popularity. In the article Podcasts are back — and making money I learned that the driving force behind the renewed interest in podcasts is the widespread use of smartphones that make accessing and listening to podcasts easier. Additionally, many cars are now Bluetooth enabled which makes it possible to hear the podcast on a sweet upgraded sound system.
There are history podcasts out there. Not all podcasts are created equal. That’s not a dig on podcasts made in one’s free time with money found in the couch cushions. Did you hear my podcast? However, the people who make history podcasts aren’t always experts in history or even a field that vests the podcaster with research skills. This is a point Dr. Cebula wrote about in his blog post, Public History Has to Get the History Right, where a self-taught historical enthusiast stepped up to the mic and made a podcast about an event that was, well, told in a way that one might have heard on Edison’s Talking Machine rather than in the modern age. Dr. Cebula thinks that novice historians are filling a need that could and should be filled by professionals, “But we fail to embrace the new opportunities to reach a public…”
There are some quality history podcasts out there. The Best History Podcasts is a list compiled by the UK-based Telegraph of a few. But just because something is well produced by experts doesn’t mean the information is always complete and error free. It’s important to be active media consumers at all times regardless of the medium. Question the storyteller’s sources, motives, and biases. Even in history: nullius in verba.