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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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.