News & OpinionSpotlight

Spotlight: Joni Deutsch is on a Quest to Tell Stories


Everybody’s got a story to tell. 

That’s the thinking behind the Queen City PodQuest, a contest hosted by WFAE in search of the next great local podcast. In December, following up on the success of two 2018 WFAE podcasts titled She Says and Amplifier, the station announced the PodQuest, calling for podcast pitches from listeners.

On Jan. 27, when the time for submissions ended, the station had 370 pitches. After Amplifier host Joni Deutsch and her team filtered a few dozen that didn’t fit the contest’s terms and conditions, they were left with more than 340 qualified entrants. On Monday, Feb. 4, voting went live

When voting ends on Feb. 17, the five leading vote-getters will receive one-on-one mentorship from Deutsch and her team, and the chance to work with WFAE to release their podcast under the station’s umbrella. 

We spoke with Deutsch about the goals of the Queen City PodQuest, themes she saw in the entries and how each of the hundreds of entrants can benefit from the contest. Then below, separate from our interview with Deutsch, we picked out 10 highlights we found in the voting pool that we’d like to hear more about in 2019. 

Joni Deutsch (Photo courtesy of WFAE)

Queen City Nerve: How did the idea for Queen City PodQuest come about? 

Joni Deutsch: Queen City PodQuest really came about as a result of WFAE’s year-long listening strategy. Following the Keith Lamont Scott shooting [in 2016], there’s a lot of different revelations going on in the community about what Charlotte is, and the different thoughts and opinions therein. Really this PodQuest is a way for people to be empowered to share their stories through this platform that is podcasting. There’s so many different ideas, there’s so many different stories to tell, and we’re so excited to be able to share these through the contest.

There are a ton of entrants to sift through when voting. Are you concerned that folks won’t be interested in reading through all that? 

At the very least, what we’re hoping this does is to encourage people to, of course, support the people they want and the stories they want, but also to learn about the other ideas and voices in the community. That would be great if one person comes in because their friend or family is in it, but then they come out of this contest thinking, “Oh, there’s some other ideas in the community, I want to collaborate with them. I want to encourage their stories further.” 

How can folks benefit from PodQuest even if not included as a finalist? 

On our website you’ll see that there are some resource sections. Some people had no idea that they can record through Advent Coworking or Hygge, they didn’t know that they could record on their phone, or you can actually go to the library with your library card in Charlotte Mecklenburg [Library] and take out a podcast recording kit from the library. That’s amazing.

I think what this is doing is it’s encouraging some new ideas, some new collaborations in the community between organizations. It’s a good way to spread the word. There are podcasts that are currently in existence in Charlotte, not just from WFAE but from other organizations and producers, and when people get into podcasting, they’re going to learn more about the podcasts of Charlotte as well.

What themes and genres did you see the most of when reading through the entries? True crime is a favorite these days, was that the most prevalent? 

As prevalent as true crime is as a popular genre in podcasting, I didn’t see as many true-crime podcasts as I did story podcasts, like StoryCorps, which is a very popular segment on NPR, or podcasts that are like TED Talks or entrepreneurial podcasts — things that inspire you to think differently of the world and business and economy, DIY. Those are some of the more popular genres, but we really did receive an idea for basically every kind of podcast you can think of.

(Graphic courtesy of WFAE)

We took a look through the entries after our talk with Deutsch to see what we’d be most interested in seeing made into a podcast. To be clear, these are picks of interest being highlighted solely by Queen City Nerve, and have not been chosen by or discussed with anyone at WFAE. 

Utterly Mental: Jeffrey Jordan examines the stories of people living with mental health disorders in an attempt to break the stigma surrounding mental health in general.

Here and Doing Things: Analogue Luxury founder David Butler has been, well, here and doing things in the local arts scene for years, recently working with Alvin C. Jacobs on the Brookhill Matters exhibit at the Gantt Center. His insights are invaluable. 

Monumental Work: Vanessa Williams explores local and regional history on display, doing on-site reporting on monuments, memorials and other public representations of historical figures, while asking that the city recognize people that have been overlooked for this type of honor.

Here For Good: Q.C. Family Tree co-founder Helms Jarrell collects interviews, stories and music to cultivate community for the common good. 

Latino Alternativo: A podcast highlighting the rich alternative Latinx culture in Charlotte, hosted by Javier Morales. 

Rise Against: A historical podcast from Eric Blake and David Gaughan that tells true stories of the Lumbee and Tuscarora tribes of North Carolina, beginning with the Battle of Hayes Pond. 

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things: For years, Helen Hope Kimbrough has been an “ordinary” person doing extraordinary work around childhood literacy. She’ll be interviewing folks like herself who do amazing behind-the-scenes work for the greater good. 

The Green Assistant: Walker Spruill will do reporting on our local waste and recycling departments to learn more about a field that most folks would rather ignore, helping us all get a little greener in the process. 

Missing in our Backyard: Long-time Charlotteans remember the names Kyle Fleischmann and Asha Degree, but there are so many more who go missing in North Carolina every year. Award-winning writer Renee Roberson investigates Carolina cold cases and reports on solved ones to see what can be learned. 

Watch Charlotte Grow: We know Charlotte is gaining people, but how are we growing? Is the growth equitable? Are we managing it sensibly? Are we protecting our environment? What can we learn from other places? There is perhaps no one more qualified to answer these questions than Mary Newsom, former director of policy initiatives at UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute. 


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