‘Crooked Power’ team decides to co-host podcast together at first sight

Two unlikely Moody students were brought together by The Drag, a passion for politics, and a family legacy itching to be told

Cesar Perez, junior journalism major, and Anysa Hernandez, junior communication studies major and journalism minor, never expected to find themselves in the audio world as sophomores, let alone together. 

Perez is from a line of journalists, and he has always known he has wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps. In fact, he’s on a mission to report on and produce a podcast called “Crooked Power” to tell the story of his family’s life as journalists in Ecuador during a time of great media suppression by the government.

“I had this story that I had been wanting to tell for many years, but I didn’t really know how I was going to tell it,” Perez said. 

It was during his freshman year in an office hours session with Professor Robert Quigley that Perez explored the idea of audio storytelling. Quigley, also the executive producer of The Drag, an audio production house at the Moody College of Communication, suggested Perez tell his story through a long-form podcast that eventually became “Crooked Power.”

“That summer I came back home to Ecuador and started doing research and gathering sources and materials,” Perez said. “That’s how I got involved with The Drag.”

The multipart podcast will tell the story of a crackdown on the media in 2011 by the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. The president had placed criminal charges against Perez’s family members, owners of Ecuador’s largest newspaper.

Hernandez, a first-year journalism major at the time, grappled more with finding her niche.

“I talked to Quigley about how I was really conflicted about being in the major because I felt like it wasn’t right for me,” Hernadez said. “I’m more interested in digital media, like podcasts, videos, writing, but not in a journalistic manner.”

Quigley briefly told Hernandez about Perez and the podcast story he would be working on. Hernandez was interested and was immediately taken to meet Perez.

“As soon as we talked, I knew Anysa was the one to be with me on this story,” Perez said.

Hernandez is passionate about politics and social justice. Perez is passionate about sharing his family’s legacy. Together, they bring two unique perspectives to tell one inspiring story.

“A big thing about this story is that it’s so politically charged, but also it’s really personal,” Perez said. “We need to figure out the way to seamlessly transition between those two lines. It’s weird because I have to look at the story through another lens than the one I lived through.”

As a person who has no personal ties to the experiences of the story, Hernandez is mainly tasked with maintaining the objective perspective of the podcast. The story is about Perez’s family, but there is also the aspect of it that has to do with the former president of Ecuador.

Hernandez’s focus is to research and interview academics surrounding human rights and Ecuadorian politics. Perez’s focus is to gather personal anecdotes and key interviews with other Ecuadorians who lived through the story. Together, they balance out the telling of the complete story.

“I’ve become a better reporter because of my conversations with Anysa,” Perez said. “She’s made me realize certain aspects of the story that we’re now proud to tell. All these realizations, I don’t know if I could’ve done them without Anysa. For me, they just strengthen the story so much more.”

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t affected their sense of teamwork. Both Perez’s and Hernandez’s commitment to do this story justice is unwavering.

“The level of Anysa’s interest in the story has made this partnership easier to navigate,” Perez said. “If Anysa wasn’t as interested as she is, it wouldn’t have worked.”

The “Crooked Power” series is set to release in the fall of 2021. The podcast will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and The Drag’s website.

Kadija is a junior studying Journalism, French and IRG at UT Austin. When she’s not learning a new language or being a social advocate, she loves traveling, cooking, watching films and spending time with family and friends.

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