‘I swear, I’m very interested in what you’re saying’: The Drag works remotely during a global pandemic and adapts to new challenges

From frequent Zoom calls to daily Slack messages, The Drag has been following social distancing recommendations as they plan, script and record podcasts during the spread of a novel coronavirus.

As the director and host of “Request Pending,” Sara Schleede said she reassures her subjects with a quick, “I swear, I’m very interested in what you’re saying, but I can’t say a lot back,” before her interviews. 

Bringing people together through virtual platforms, “Request Pending” is a podcast about online connection through internet communities around the country, so Schleede finds that a phone or Skype interview is expected. 

She said recording audio without seeing the other person’s face can be difficult as a simple “mhmm” in acknowledgement can “ruin the tape” and her enthusiastic nodding gets lost in translation.  

“It can be harder to make a connection with your sources when you’re just talking on the phone,” Schleede said. “Getting to see people or visit them in their environment, you get to really form a connection and get to know them.”

Under the strange conditions brought by COVID-19, Schleede said her interviewees usually pick up some handy audio recording knowledge after speaking with her. She often asks them to move to a quiet room in their house and teaches them how to record good audio with the technology at their disposal. 

“You don’t really want somebody to have their dog barking in the background,” Schleede said. 

Similarly, the co-directors and hosts of “Crooked Power,” Anysa Hernandez and Cesar Perez, FaceTime and text all the time to communicate with each other. Their podcast dives into Ecuadorian political and social issues, so they would often conduct distanced interviews for their sources in Ecuador even before social distancing was put in place.

Socially distant interviewing has been made easy through phone apps, and Hernandez has gotten crafty with recording audio over FaceTime using the iPhone’s built in screen record option and QuickTime on her laptop.

Perez is now in Ecuador and Hernandez said it’s easier to stay connected now that he’s at home. “A lot of the interviews he’s doing right now are with his family, and he has the perfect opportunity to get all of them in one place,” she said. 

Hernandez, like most of us at The Drag, has been using her extra time at home to listen to podcasts and get inspiration for the projects she’s working on.

Maya Fawaz is a senior at the University of Texas studying Journalism with a minor in French. She loves impulsively redecorating and cooking without following a recipe. 

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