‘The Pub’ #37: Death, Sex & Money’s Anna Sale, live from Los Angeles

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Anna Sale: “A really incredible gift of podcasting is that people feel a relationship with the show.” (Photo: WNYC)

Anna Sale: “A really incredible gift of podcasting is that people feel a relationship with the show.” (Photo: WNYC)

Anna Sale had three attributes that made her an ace political reporter in New York: a disarming demeanor, phenomenal listening ability and little respect for personal boundaries. Now she’s using those skills to do what she was born to do — getting people to talk about “the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more.”

That’s the tagline of her WNYC podcast Death, Sex & Money. Launched in May of 2014 — five months before Serial — it was one of the first hit public media podcasts that wasn’t also a radio show. In interviews with both well-known and unknown people, she finds ways to painlessly pry out the most intimate, revealing details imaginable about their lives.

“You just ask a really broad question, like, ‘Tell us your stories about cheating,’ and a really incredible gift of podcasting is that people feel a relationship with the show — so much so that they will send really personal stories in,” Sale told me on The Pub.

I interviewed Sale before a live audience in Los Angeles, where we were all attending the 2015 Online News Association conference. Also on the show:

  • Reveal host Al Letson and Curious City creator Jennifer Brandel compete in a quiz game we call, “No one can resist my Schweddy Balls,” in which they identify appearances, references or parodies of public media in movies and TV.
  • In the shadow of the Hollywood Hills, I argue that that public media could learn a thing or two about developing new hit shows from the commercial entertainment industry, with the help of Kim Masters, host of The Business on KCRW.

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at adam@current.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to adam@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

  • Mark Pugner

    The secret to good interviews is listening, and being interested in learning from the response. That is what makes good radio shows. You could always tell, that the Car Talk guys had a genuine interest and like for ordinary people. They were interested and excited to hear and learn and talk to everyone. They were so good at talking to people, it didn’t feel like work to them.