Growing up in Kansas City, Suzanne Hogan loved hearing stories about the most important figures in her city’s past. It wasn’t until adulthood that she realized the way her city glorified only certain parts of the past — often glossing over influential women and people of color in the area.
“A People’s History of Kansas City,” a podcast from KCUR Studios hosted by Suzanne Hogan and produced by Suzanne and Mackenzie Martin, first debuted in February 2020. Now in its third season, PHKC tells stories about the everyday heroes, renegades and visionaries who shaped Kansas City.
Over 24 episodes so far, the podcast has highlighted reporting and contributors from across KCUR’s newsroom (including interns!) and partner stations. Radio pieces adapted from PHKC episodes air during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on KCUR 89.3, as well as our daily news podcast Kansas City Today.
As its name suggests, A People’s History is especially concerned about the Kansas and Missouri figures and movements who have been left out of our popular histories, and challenging the narratives that this city tells about itself. Its primary audience is not “history geeks,” but rather everyday Kansas Citians — after all, these are the stories that explain and challenge the world we’re living in today.
To accomplish this mission, PHKC’s digital packaging is given as much attention as the podcast audio itself. Each episode is packaged with custom graphics overseen by KCUR’s designer Crysta Henthorne, so it stands out as visually distinct from traditional news stories.
Every episode is rewritten into its own digital article, complete with historical and contemporary photos, so the stories can be read as well as listened to. Rather than “cannibalizing” potential listenership, our experimentations show that shareable digital packages actually push more diverse audiences towards the podcast who wouldn’t otherwise seek it out.
As we see in current headlines, the question of “Whose history is being left out?” isn’t going away. PHKC offers a model for other stations to integrate history projects into their newsrooms, and proof of how local stories can stretch far beyond a local audience.