New MPR News Podcasts: Q and A with Producer Chris Roberts

December 2014: Serial may be getting all the podcast attention of late, but don't forget to check out new podcasts from MPR News. This fall MPR News launched six new podcasts as part of its ongoing digital initiatives and as part of its work to reach new audiences. The shows are hosted by a collection of Minnesotans who represent the voices, perspectives and interests of MPR News audiences. Podcast offerings include shows on biking, culture and health, along with diverse views of the news and life.

"We know more than 50 percent of our listeners find us on mobile devices and don't always make an appointment with their radio. We also know that there's passionate interest in these topics," managing director of News, Chris Worthington said. "We believe podcasts will be a great way to connect with these communities, bring their voices to the forefront and to experiment with how we develop content or tell stories."

At the heart of the new podcast initiative is veteran MPR News producer Chris Roberts. He works in day in and day out to produce the six podcasts each week, which means working with the hosts, many of whom are new to working in radio, in developing their content. He also edits sounds, finds accompanying music, helps promote, and provides an encouraging presence that empowers show hosts to find their voice. He is a "jack of all trades" so to speak and the perfect person to give a behind-the-scenes look at the new MPR News podcasts.

Q&A with Chris Roberts:

1. What are these new podcasts?
More and more people are consuming news and information through mobile devices. On-demand listening has really taken off. MPR News can meet this demand with content we're uniquely capable of providing.

We've developed new podcasts focused on culture, biking, Minnesota's future, the state's diverse communities, and health and health care. It's allowed us to expand our palette and broaden our canvas in terms of the subject areas we can explore and new voices we can bring to our listeners. They've also given us a chance to be a little more casual and off the cuff in our presentation, which has been fun.

2. How did the concepts for them and finding the hosts/panels come together?
The podcasts give us an opportunity to cater more directly to some niche but growing audiences we want to serve. We had many discussions within the newsroom, sought input from our audiences and the community at large, and then recruited our hosts.

We were looking for some very thoughtful, opinionated, knowledgeable, and last but not least, entertaining voices who relish a good conversation, and we think we found them.

3. As someone who's been an arts and culture reporter at MPR News, what do these podcasts, and perhaps podcasts in general, tell us about our culture or the way our culture takes in information?

While I think we do a great job (I'm biased), public radio's arts and culture coverage tends to focus on artists, presenters and creators; their intentions and the impact they want to have. Sometimes we'll include a professional critic's perspective. But we don't regularly hear from recipients of culture, be they other artists or writers, or people outside the art scene.

With our culture oriented podcasts, "The Interpreters" and "Pop Till We Drop," we have a chance to take a breath and contemplate why it's happening, what it all means, and how we feel about it on a deeper level.

4. What's been your favorite part of creating something new?
I believe a really important way for public radio stations to stay strong is to provide a regular flow of new, original, exciting programming that's uniquely relevant to the region and the listeners they serve. That's in addition to staples such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, This American Life, etc. We have to keep coming up with really cool things you can only hear, HERE. In creating and producing programs and segments such as Word of Mouth, The Local Show, Art Hounds, and Cube Critics, I've devoted much of my career to that principle.

These podcasts are allowing me to stay on that path, be creative, and have a ton of fun doing it!

Be sure to tune in and check out a podcast this holiday season at The six new podcasts are:

Counter Stories - A weekly conversation on life and the news in Minnesota, from the perspective of members of the state's communities of color. The show will feature regular panelists Don Eubanks, assistant professor of Social Work at Metro State University and member of Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe; Luz Frias with the Minneapolis Foundation; Anthony Galloway, West Metro learning specialist, and Hlee Lee, a Hmong creative professional.

Pedal Hub - A weekly discussion devoted to biking and biking enthusiasts in the Twin Cities. Featuring Gene Oberpriller, owner of One on One Bike Studio in Minneapolis; Amber Dallman, physical activity coordinator for the State Health Department and spokeswoman for St. Paul Women on Bikes; and Patrick Stephenson, founder of 30 Days of Biking and Star Tribune biking blogger.

Pop Till We Drop - Three 20-somethings take on our pop culture obsessed world, featuring University of Minnesota Radio K alums Tess Weinberg, Alex Gaterud and Shelby Thomason.

Minnesota Next - An interview series exploring Minnesota's future from the point of view of people who will be living in it. It will be hosted by card-carrying millennial Maddy Mahon, an MPR News producer.

The Interpreters - A weekly podcast on culture, how we live, how we communicate with each other, what we value, traditions and trends. Regular panelists are writer and artist Andy Sturdevant; Molly Priesmeyer, writer and Star Tribune blogger; Ben Heywood, executive director of the Soap Factory in Minneapolis; and Saymoukda Vongsay, a playwright and poet.

Hallberg's Picture of Health - Weekly conversations between MPR News medical commentator Dr. Jon Hallberg and All Things Considered host Tom Crann, exploring health, wellness, health care, and medicine.

For media inquiries regarding these podcasts or to invite a podcast host to speak at your event, please contact Meggan Ellingboe at 651-290-1279 or at