(By Troy Price) Back in fourth grade there were perfect autumn days when we were able to have recess outside. (NOTE: For Millennials reading this, the term “recess” as used here means a period of time of outside play scheduled in the school day — not the break Congress takes between sessions.)
On these perfect days we students were able to play in the big field behind the school as well as the outside basketball court adjacent to the field. Here is the reason I found these fall days so perfect. Fifth-graders who were bigger and meaner would all hit the door for recess and run crazy fast to the big field to play softball, or freeze-tag, or whatever the sport of the day was. My favorite place during these recesses was that basketball court. There we could play flexible-rule foursquare or talk about TV shows or the book the teacher was reading to us. But during those recesses most of us would throw those tan-colored maple tree helicopter seeds crazy high in the air and watch them spin down. That was perfect.
But there were other recesses. Sometimes the big field was muddy and everybody had to play on the basketball court for the whole 35 minutes. It was much different. Those fifth-graders would use their size, skills, and experience and do what they wanted. Half the court became dedicated to actual basketball for just 10 fifth-graders to use. On those days, fourth-graders never moved past the fourth square, there was less happy talking and, maybe the worst thing, the fifth-graders would trample over the helicopter seeds and we couldn’t throw them. Everyone was inwardly angry at the fifth-graders, but everybody also wanted to be a fifth-grader. It was not a perfect set-up.
Today as a grownup, I love listening to NPR on the radio in my car. I appreciate what they talk about and have had many “driveway moments” where I stayed in my car after arriving home to hear the end of a good story. I give money to my local station to support their work. They use donations for their quality equipment, their quality staff, and for the associated costs of putting on quality radio.
If you are reading this, you know that NPR recently began podcasting. Just like at my fourth-grade recess when the big kids would swoop in and disturb things, NPR has entered my space as an independent podcaster and right now it is not a perfect set-up. They use their resources and put their radio shows out as a podcast. They also use their size, skill, and experience and produce podcast-only content that could not be broadcast over the air. Don’t get me wrong, I have never heard an NPR podcast that is not perfect. But I think I can speak for independent podcasters when I say we are inwardly angry at NPR, but we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) want to be NPR.
Having grown beyond fourth-grade, I believe I have some perspective on the current podcast situation. The podcasting space is big enough for whoever wants to be in it. There is enough Internet to share. There is enough in this beautiful world for everyone to talk about something. Having NPR in the podcasting space is in some ways…nice. Lots of people are talking about the next series of Serial, and counting down to the S-Town movie. But, you can also find unsolved mysteries or deep dive into a Southern town by searching for True Crimecast or the V/EWS podcast. NPR or independents offer a lifetime of listening.
However, based on my experience in fourth grade, here is what is going to happen. NPR (the big kid) is going to move on to whatever comes next and thus, away from podcasting. When that happens, we, the independent podcasters, will still be here producing our shows. We will be like the big kids on the playground, it will be a golden time for us. I just hope we don’t trample anyone else’s playthings underfoot.
Troy Price is the co-founder of Front Porch Studios in Berea, Kentucky. He has been involved with podcasting for over a decade. Do you listen or produce a show that you think should be on the list? Comment below or email Troy@frontporchstudios.com to be included!