This is Let There Be Pod in Association with Acast. In each issue of the magazine, our partner Acast – home of the UK’s BEST podcasters – sits down for a chat with one of its creators to hear what they love about making podcasts. In this interview, from issue #019, Acast speaks to Eamon Dunphy about The Stand!
Acast: What inspired you to start a podcast? Why name it “The Stand”?
DM: I decided to start The Stand podcast in 2016. I think podcasting is an exciting, new journalistic medium. It allows people to specialise if they want to in areas such as crime, sport, politics, the arts, current affairs and history or indeed any subject. It also enables the audience to choose what they want to listen to and to learn about something in far greater depth than a five minute or less item would allow them to on radio or television.
Another key element in podcasting is its intimacy: it’s not the radio in the corner and it’s not the television that you’re half-watching waiting for something that appeals to you. As a podcast listener, you have to make a conscious choice to tune in on a subject that you’re really interested in. One of the biggest problems in the contemporary world is a belief among media managers that people have short attention spans and don’t like extended discussions. I don’t believe in that and I never did.
There’s a dangerous populism consuming the world at the moment. Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are good examples of politicians who govern with slogans that are essentially meaningless: Make America Great Again, what does that mean? Let’s Get Brexit Done is equally mindless. Those kinds of slogans can be persuasive but they leave people uninformed and the first duty of every journalist is to inform the reader, listener or viewer. And you can’t do that with a soundbite.
The soundbite culture is a danger to our freedoms really. Podcasting’s greatest virtue is that it allows its producers and listeners to learn in-depth about the facts behind the slogans If there’s a big story in any week I like to feel that someone who listens to The Stand will be in possession of all the salient facts and if they’re discussing it with family, friends, at work, at the water cooler they will know the real story behind the headline. For example, the story of Donald Trump: we have followed this story since 2016 right the way through until today, with Niall Stanage, an outstanding journalist who is the White House Correspondent for a respected newspaper, The Hill. It will be no surprise to regular listeners of The Stand that the political story in the United States is developing ominously with consequences that are really frightening.
The Brexit story is another good example: we had pro and anti contributors on The Stand. This is one of the biggest stories of our time, the effects of which won’t be fully understood for a long time, perhaps for decades. We’ve also covered extensively China’s aggressive expansion. The crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong being a good example of China’s tyranny. And of course the threat China poses to Taiwan which for the Chinese Communist Party is an even more urgent issue than Hong Kong. The reason we call our podcast The Stand is that a friend suggested to me that, if you’re sitting in The Stand, you have a very good view of everything and can see everything that’s happening and how.
Coming from a broadcasting background, what about podcasting appealed to you most?
My background is varied, ranging from radio to print journalism to television. In many ways podcasting has been the most satisfying of all those experiences, radio apart. In fact I think radio is a fascinating and very satisfying medium for the same reason that I love podcasting.
I edit and present the podcast. We’re proud of the quality of our contributors. For example, the Premier League is watched globally and we have the best analysts in the world, John Giles and Liam Brady, every week. The late great Robert Fisk was a regular contributor. Peter Oborne, one of the most distinguished British political observers and a long time Boris-watcher also features among our contributors.
The acclaimed writer Colm Tóibín also appears regularly on The Stand on various subjects, and never fails to fascinate with his take on the world. Nicola Tallant, twice Crime Journalist of the Year, has been a regular guest from day one reporting major crime and the Irish gangland figures who are at the heart of the global drug trade.
We also feature one-on-one interviews with Ireland’s great sports men and women. They are internationally renowned: horsemen Ruby Walsh and Johnny Murtagh, rugby greats Ronan O’Gara and Johnny Sexton, and Liverpool legend Graham Souness all feature in our extensive back catalogue.
What do you think resonates most with your audience?
The listeners know me, I’ve been around a long time. I think they trust my integrity as a journalist and this shows in our correspondence. It’s a relationship that I feel is personal with the audience. To go back to the point made earlier about soundbites, I don’t think people are satisfied with the soundbite culture and long-form journalism tells the whole story.
A good example is: What does Make America Great Again mean? Or Let’s Get Brexit Done? One of the biggest threats to our democracy is populist politics where meaningless slogans are the order of the day. To deconstruct that and get to the truth takes time, and that’s a great advantage for podcasters.
What are some of your most memorable moments on The Stand?
One of the most memorable moments came during the abortion referendum in Ireland, which was extremely emotive. One pro-lifer stormed out of the studio after 12 minutes with an expletive-filled rant calling me all kinds of names. We decided to play it out and it was a rare treat and insight for our audience about the heated nature of the abortion debate and how it could transform reasonable people quite dramatically.
The person concerned is very well known and gave us much-needed publicity. John Waters is his name and the episode is in our back catalogue (ep 167) and it might lighten any dark day.
Do you think podcasting allows more room for creators to speak their truth and tell their stories?
As you will have gathered from the points I’ve made above, I most certainly do. Good stories take time to tell.
What have you learned from the guests who have appeared on your podcast?
The most important question is with regard to its authenticity and, on The Stand, we’re proud that our guests are the best available and are keen to tell the story on any given day the way they see it.