PBS Reno’s first-ever podcast focuses on host’s Chinese-Vietnamese heritage

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PBS Reno

PBS Reno's headquarters in Nevada.

Count PBS Reno among the public TV stations that are launching podcasts as a way to connect with new audiences.

The idea behind creating PBS Reno’s first-ever podcast began to gel last year when Christina Le, lead creative designer for the Nevada station, was participating in the PBS Digital Immersion Program. The CPB-funded initiative helps mid-level public media staffers refine ideas that can succeed beyond the broadcast-centric mission of yesteryear. Le was excited about the professional development program but had a change of heart about what she wanted to work on as the training progressed.

Christina Le, host of the PBS Reno podcast "Refugee's Daughter"

“Initially, I wanted to do a video project, because that kind of makes sense,” Le said. “We’re a broadcast studio, and we make videos.” But, after she struggled to come up with ideas, Le talked with her supervisor, Megan Myers, VP of content. “She said, ‘Start with something you know.’”

With that suggestion, Le began to think about a podcast focused on her experiences as a Chinese-Vietnamese American. She asked her family to participate in the program, but they balked at the idea of having their personal lives recorded. She pivoted in a new direction.

“I can’t really talk about [my family], but I can certainly talk about myself,” Le said. “I went that route and brought in guests to kind of bring in their perspectives along with what I have to say.”

Refugee’s Daughter, the podcast that grew from that inspiration, premiered its first half-hour episode April 7. Le sat down with Sarah and Kaitlin Leung, two of the four creators of The Woks of Life, a blog that covers Chinese cooking. Subsequent episodes tackled such topics as the experiences of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry, astrology and Chinese medicine.

“To find the guests, I actually followed a lot of these people or knew about them,” Le said. The eighth episode, the season finale released Friday, features Ken Liu, a science-fiction and fantasy writer who’s won multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards. Le read Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and took “a shot in the dark” to invite him on the podcast, she said. He agreed. In the episode, Liu discusses his writing style and how his family background influences his work.

‘Let’s dip our toes in this realm’

Local public TV stations and national organizations are increasingly investing in podcasting as they attempt to reach audiences who have migrated from broadcast to a variety of digital spaces. American Public Television is launching a food, travel, health and lifestyle podcast unit this year. Rhode Island PBS acquired Future of XYZ, a formerly independent podcast that gained an audience during the pandemic. And several stations, including East Tennessee PBS in Knoxville and Ball State PBS in Muncie, Ind., are working on podcasts for children’s audiences as part of the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

PBS Reno started down this path by evaluating alternative ways to reach audiences during the pandemic, said Myers. “Podcasts are in a lot of ways cheaper to produce episodes for than TV is,” she said. “And as we see linear viewership drop, how do we still capture audiences? … That’s kind of where we said ‘Let’s dip our toes in this realm.’” Myers also wanted to support Refugee’s Daughter because it focuses on diverse communities.


Refugee’s Daughter was co-produced by Divergent Point Media, which handled technical details of producing the podcast. Le said she’s game to work on a second season or pitch ideas for another podcast.

PBS Reno is considering creating podcasts that cover the arts, serve as a book club, or extend the reach of flagship TV programs like Wild Nevada, Myers said. Early this year, the station partnered with Reno Public Market, a community space for food, local vendors and art, to build a podcast studio in the space for the station’s audio productions. Once completed, the studio would also be available for podcast creators in the community to rent.

Myers’ dream for the next couple of years is for all of PBS Reno’s digital platforms, from its YouTube page and YouTube TV channel to its podcasts, “to be as important as what we have over the air.”

“First and foremost, we are a public television station, and there will always be people who consume that part of it,” she said. “But we’re missing a big piece of the pie if we don’t look at trends and where people are going. If we don’t go to those places now, we’re going to lose our audience.”

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