This week, Pod Bible caught up with the award-winning The Europeans to talk about their process, preparation and much more. The podcast was founded in 2017 by two British friends, Paris-based journalist Katy Lee and Amsterdam-based opera singer Dominic Kraemer. In association with Are We Europe magazine, it looks at politics and culture around the continent. The duo delve into the stories that don’t get enough attention in the national media and interview fascinating people across Europe, from writers to activists, scientists to chefs.
What was the drive behind starting the podcast and with so much going on in Europe every second, how do you go about selecting your topics for conversation?
Katy: The podcast was born in late 2017. It kind of grew out of Brexit in that, as two Brits, we felt like when “Europe” got talked about in our national media, it was almost as if Europe and Brexit were the same thing and there was nothing worth following in European news that wasn’t Brexit. As two people living on the continent — me in Paris, and Dominic in Amsterdam — we knew of course that this wasn’t true. I was working as a journalist covering French politics at the time, and Dominic is a total news junkie, so we knew there were all kinds of topics worth talking about. But we also felt they could be made more accessible, so we wanted to make a podcast that talked about European politics in a fun and approachable way.
Dominic: I noticed that I knew so much more about what was going on in America than I did about what was happening in the continent I was living in. I was, like most European citizens, pretty oblivious to how the institutions of the European Union worked and I was initially worried that this ignorance would be a problem when making a podcast about Europe. But in the end, I think our status as relative outsiders from the ‘Brussels-bubble’ has actually helped make our podcast a success. Week on week, we are trying to cut through the Euro-jargon and to learn more about how Europe works, bringing our audience along with us on this somewhat nerdy ride.
Katy: In terms of where our topics come from, a lot of them just come from news stories we’ve been following in any particular week, whether it’s an election or some juicy political scandal. Between us our team speaks five languages so we try to keep an eye on different national media around the continent, but of course there’s far more going on than we can keep track of. So quite often, we get brilliant ideas sent in for topics or potential guests from our listeners, by email or on Instagram or Twitter.
What does preparation for your topics typically look like?
Katy: Our style is pretty chatty and conversational, but actually a huge amount of research goes into making the show each week! We’re very conscious that we’re not experts on what’s happening in every country, so we make sure we read as widely as possible on topics that we’re going to talk about as it’s super important to us that we get it right. Quite often I will hunt down local experts on whatever topic it is we’re talking about and read everything they’ve written or tweeted about it.
Political and cultural views tend to be topics of discussion avoided at the dinner table, how careful are you when introducing personal opinions?
Katy: It’s a difficult line to tread! I don’t feel like the point of our podcast is to tell people what to think, necessarily, and I’m always wary of shoving my views down other people’s throats. But at the same time I don’t think we necessarily try to hide it when we have an opinion about something. For me the ideal balance is not hiding my own opinions, but trying not to give the impression that I’m trying to tell people how to think either.
Dominic: I remember that Katy, was initially pretty reluctant to express any hint of her own opinion at all on the show. I totally got that for her as a professional journalist who is trained to report neutrally on the news. I was, on the other hand, as an opera singer with no journalistic training, initially a bit looser with expressing my opinions. Over the years, I think we have both shifted a bit towards each other’s default position and found a happy medium in our chatter.
What do you have coming soon that your listeners can look forward to!?
Katy: I’m really looking forward to seeing episodes two and three of the visual podcast series (that’s right, visual podcasts!) that we’re making with Are We Europe. The series is called This Is What A Generation Sounds Like and it’s a series of eight very intimate stories told by young people around Europe. The first of these, “Josh and Franco”, was about a father and son in southern Italy who are both gay, having a very raw and honest conversation about their relationship and the difficulties of coming out in a very macho culture. It was so amazing to see the design wizards at Are We Europe turn the podcast into something that can be watched as well as heard, and we can’t wait to see what they do with the second and third of these stories.