Alberta Podcast Network rolls out in time to curate your road trip

The Alberta Podcast Network curates podcasts in order to promote local ones and help build the audience for a growing media form.

'You get to be the programmer, so you choose what you want to listen to,' Karen Unland says

John Ware was freed as a slave at age 20 and made his way to Alberta in search of a new life. His story is explored in Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen, a CBC podcast. (Glenbow Archives)

It's road trip season, and what that means, in 2018, is time to download a few podcasts to take on the highway.

Karen Unland, founder of the Alberta Podcast Network, joined The Homestretch on Monday to talk about some of her favourite podcasts.

But before she started with her recommendations, host Rob Brown asked what, exactly, a podcast is, anyway, for people who grew up listening to radio.

"A podcast is a piece of audio on the Internet, and what makes it unusual is that you can subscribe to it, so whenever there's a new episode of that show, it automatically appears in your app, so you can listen to it," Unland said.

"You get to be the programmer, so you choose what you want to listen to, instead of listening to what comes at you, say from a broadcast on the radio."

Guiding listeners through world of podcasting

Over the summer, Unland will appear periodically on The Homestretch with a variety of recommendations for listeners looking for some guidance through the world of podcasting, where each listener is also their own program director.

"The Alberta Podcast Network is a collection of about 40 Alberta-made podcasts that I've gathered in one place, so that they can find more listeners and tell the stories of this place and observe the world from this place," she said.

The theme that Unland tackled in the first episode was historical podcasts.

Author Malcolm Gladwell's podcast Revisionist History is among the most popular history-themed podcasts. (Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New Yorker)

From Gladwell to Ware to Sawbones

What's popular with history buffs?

"If you go to apple podcasts and type in history, one that will come out on top almost all the time is Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell," she said.

Gladwell's podcast, Revisionist History, is dedicated to taking a contrarian perspective on conventional wisdom and turning history on its head.

"[That's] Malcolm being Malcolm. He kind of does a reinterpretation of something that happened in the past, and he applies that Gladwellian eye to it that you would have noticed if you'd read any of his pieces in The New Yorker, or his books, where he grabs onto a thread and pulls it and finds the connections to other things," Unland said.

Sawbones

Another one that comes highly regarded from Unland is Sawbones, a cross between medical history and standup comedy. (It's subtitled 'A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine')

"This is Sydnee and Justin McElroy. They're from West Virginia. The McIlroys are kind of part of podcasting royalty as part of the Maximum Fun Network," she said.

"Justin is the comedian, but his wife is a medical doctor, so they came up with this idea to dig into what she found interesting out about ancient, medieval and slightly more recent history of medicine and just have him react hilariously to what she was telling him."

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, the creator and host of Let's Find Out, a podcast about Edmonton, along with Alberta Podcast Network founder Karen Unland. (Chris Chang-Yen Phillips)

Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen

Unland also hopes to steer podcast lovers toward local stories, and one of her favourites is Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen, a CBC Calgary podcast produced in 2017.

One that caught Unland's attention was CBC Calgary Allison Dempster's Heroes, Hustlers and Horseman podcast that told the story of John Ware, the freed ex-slave who became a southern Alberta ranching legend.

"The official history of Canada strikes some people as a bit dry, but Allison has found the juiciest bits of our past and really dug into some unsung heroes like John Ware — well, he's not that unsung thanks to people like Cheryl Foggo, who brought his history back to us — but through that podcast, we can hear about those kinds of things, and also the ladies of the evening, and the cowboys,the traders, and all those kinds of things."

Let's Find Out

There's also a podcast dedicated to exploring Edmonton's rich history: Let's Find Out, created and narrated by Chris Chang-Yen Phillips.

The show has a simple format, says Unland, Chang-Yen Phillips "takes questions from curious Edmontonians about local history, and then they find out the answers together."

"For example, a listener wanted to know if it was true that some workers died during the construction of the High Level Bridge," she said. "So they investigated that, and found out everything they could about the workers who did die, and explored what has been lost to our collective memory."

Listen to the full interview:

Summer is a time when many of us are hitting the road -- spending time in the car or at the cabin. And if you're not in the mood to settle-down with a good book -- maybe what you need is a great podcast. But where to start? Podcasts come in a variety of types and genres....Karen Unland is with the Alberta Podcast Network. She is going to be joining us throughout the summer with a list of tried and tested podcast recommendations. This week we're going to kick things off with a selection of historical podcasts. 8:08

With files from The Homestretch

About the Author

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca

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