Feature Friday: The Making of a Podcast

Posted on: March 1, 2024

photo of Taimi in front of a microphone wearing headphones

In 2023, Dr. Taimi Castle decided to start a podcast. “As the director of JMU’s Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence, I wanted to have another community engagement piece that was accessible beyond JMU faculty and staff,” Taimi recalls. “We listen to a lot of podcasts about justice issues, and sometimes I’m like, ‘I think I could do that better.’” 

Taimi recruited fellow faculty member Benjamin Meade as her co-host for the show. Not only is he the head of JMU’s Criminal Justice minor, but his lively humor helps to make the show lighthearted and entertaining while delving into otherwise heavy issues like private prisons, conspiracy theories, serial murder, and Stand Your Ground

Both Taimi and Ben teach in Justice Studies, but their podcast is anything but a lecture. Taimi explains, “Ben and I are friends in real life, so I wanted it to seem like we were just having a conversation.” In his jovial style, Ben adds, “We’re not trying to talk to other eggheads like ourselves. We’re trying to talk to ordinary people and explain the things that we study–justice topics–to a broader audience.”

This podcast was made possible with support from the JMU Libraries media production team. JUST a Minute is written and produced by Taimi and Ben, and Libraries staff record, edit, and add music. They have created 27 episodes in the year since they began recording. Keep reading to learn more about the JUST a Minute podcast and the help they received from the JMU Libraries media production team.

Let’s hear from Taimi and Ben!

How did you get started?

Taimi: When I connected with [JMU Libraries Interim Head of Media Production Services] Jenna Polk, she said, “Come over and do a tour of the studio.” It was on that first visit that I really learned what they could do.

Benjamin: This is really Taimi’s passion project. She did all the work up front, getting it organized. I just kind of hop in for the fun parts, and crack a joke every now and then. But in planning our show, we wanted it to be something that was educational, more than entertainment. Although, of course, we do try to make it fun as well. 

photo of Ben in front of a microphone wearing headphones

So tell me about the topics that you’ve covered so far.

Taimi: Two of my favorites were Ocean Trash and Climate Justice, because both of them are a little bit outside of what we do. One of the more recent ones that’s a new favorite is The Ethics of True Crime.

Benjamin: Serial Murder was a really good one, and that was Taimi’s episode. I really like that one a lot. And then, The Ethics of True Crime. That was a listener-suggested topic. But it’s kind of different and unusual because it’s a little bit meta–most podcasts are true crime. 

Who would you like your listeners to be?

Benjamin: I want everybody to listen to our podcast. It’s not just for JMU faculty.

Taimi: …or students! We are trying to take some of the things that we talk about in our classes and make them something that anyone can listen to, find interesting, and maybe learn a little bit from. I really would like people who listen to true crime also to listen to our podcast, because we have a different take on this stuff.

What does it look like when you do your podcast? What’s the setup? 

Taimi: When I first went into the [audio and video production] studio, I was like, “Oh, this is great! Oh, my gosh, this means I don’t have to buy the equipment!” The studio itself was kind of intimidating at first, getting used to the microphone and the table and the chair, and then you’re trying to remember that you’re doing a podcast, not teaching. I keep looking at the person who’s recording for feedback because that’s what we do with students. But they’re just trying to listen and record.

Benjamin:  Yeah, it was kind of nerve-wracking at first. But now, we’ve been doing it for a few months.

Taimi: We actually moved from the studio. They had something going on one day, so they moved us into a classroom. They don’t need it to be soundproof–the equipment is so fabulous that it just doesn’t pick up any other sounds. We have headphones and everything, and they just put it on a desk. And that day, we asked, can we do this again? I just feel much more comfortable in that classroom, probably because we’re educators. 

How long do you anticipate continuing to create new episodes?

Taimi: Who knows about an end date? We don’t have one. I guess we’ll just do it until the wheels come off. 

How do you work with the Libraries staff to make the podcast?

Taimi: When I was thinking about all of the things I was going to have to learn in order to pull off this podcast [by myself], I was overwhelmed, and that’s what prevented me from starting it. So when I found out how much they could do, including the editing, I was just like, “So really all Ben and I have to do is show up with our material and talk?” And that’s exactly what we do. Zach Williams is recording for us right now, and then he’ll send me the edits. He puts our music over it. They do everything. It’s wonderful. I would not have been able to do this, if not for what they’re doing for us.

Benjamin: Jenna was super helpful giving us tips. Now we just show up and they make it sound great and sound professional, like, we’re actually a real show.

What tips would you offer someone else who is thinking about starting a podcast?

Benjamin: One of the things that was super helpful for us was that we sat down and talked about podcasts that we had listened to, and things that we did like and things that we didn’t like. We don’t want to spend 10 minutes talking about what we’ve been up to lately before we get into the topic. And we want it to have a good solid hook. We have our “Minute to Spin It” at the end of each episode, where we each give a 30-second spin or a takeaway from the show.

Taimi: I like listening to podcasts where I know the format. It gives people something to look forward to. I also think if you’re not a podcast listener and you want to start a podcast, maybe you should listen to a couple first and decide what you like and don’t like about podcasts. And then get yourself amazing support like we have from JMU Libraries.

You can listen to the JUST a Minute Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This story is part of the JMU Libraries Feature Friday series. We can help faculty record instructional videos or audio in our video and audio production studio on the 5th floor of Rose Library (or in the location of your choice). Learn more about JMU Libraries Media Production Support for Faculty.

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