WITF’s ‘Melanin Report’ seeks to amplify BIPOC voices in Central Pennsylvania

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Marquis Lupton, host of "The Melanin Report" (right), interviews filmmakers Sugey Cruz and Greg Poppa.

A new podcast from WITF aims to reach an underserved audience by putting a spotlight on the experiences of people of color living in midstate Pennsylvania.

The Harrisburg station launched The Melanin Report Sept. 4. In three episodes each week, host Marquis Lupton covers top headlines and leads interviews and discussions about successes and challenges encountered by the local Black, Indigenous and People of Color community. Guests include experts, community leaders, and representatives of local organizations. 

The Melanin Report aims to give listeners “their news in their vernacular,” Lupton said. “It goes such a long way to hear that news anchor speak just like you.”

Lupton developed the idea for the show before joining WITF a little over a year ago as a host and producer. He had been running his own digital media production and marketing company, The Cultured Professional Media Group, which also focuses on underrepresented communities. TCP expanded from a podcast company into programming a Roku channel and offering educational resources for local youth. It now conducts seminars and helps teachers learn how to use podcasting as an educational tool. 

After the killing of George Floyd, WITF’s local market saw “a few spikes” in news programs focusing on BIPOC issues, Lupton said, “but then those shows kind of ended.”

WITF was receptive to the idea of The Melanin Report when he joined the station, Lupton said, but VP and Chief Audience and Content Officer Fred Vigeant asked him to refine the concept. At first, Lupton envisioned producing only one episode each week.

Over eight months, Lupton spoke to community members, reached out to his TCP Media Group audience and held two virtual focus groups. The feedback he received helped him determine the focus and length of his personal monologues, a feature of the show. It also steered him toward the name The Melanin Report.

“We found ourselves finding out that people needed something like this — especially when you talk about millennials that are 34 to 45 years old, that no longer watch … traditional news,” Lupton said. “And under the name of Melanin Report, it made them feel comfortable to want to tune in time and time again and listen to the show weekly.”

To spread the word about the show, Lupton has reached out to other podcasts beyond public media, including Breaking Barriers, Because I Said So and The Journeyman Chronicles.

In its first month, The Melanin Report received about 13,000 downloads. That’s close to what The Spark, WITF’s weekday interview radio show, reached in downloads during its first month after launching earlier this year.

John Kinzer, WITF’s programming manager, said The Melanin Report is connecting the station with new and more diverse audiences in an authentic way that aligns with its mission.

The podcast is “performing very well compared to WITF’s limited selection of other podcasts,” said John Kinzer, WITF’s programming manager. “We’re encouraged by the reception and hope that listenership continues to be strong over time.”

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