Young Podcasters Share Hollywood Gossip, Inspiring Stories, Good Reads And Startup Tips

By Susan Gill Vardon
The Orange County Register

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) At Cal State Fullerton, students are jumping into the world of podcasting, tackling eeverything from entrepreneurship to epsiodes of the Bachelor.

Orange County

Many Wednesday mornings you can find Emma Dapkus and Gianna Gazich in the basement of Pollak Library with a microphone and two tea cups.

The Cal State Fullerton communication majors, also roommates, are there to talk about the tea of the day and to dish about their favorite Hollywood stars or other pop culture goings-on — everything from “The Bachelor,” their current obsession, to Harry Styles, the Oscars or Miley Cyrus.

“Last year it was so good,” said Gazich, 22, about “The Bachelor.” “The girls were so great and I didn’t know who I wanted to win. And this year it’s a train wreck and I can’t stop watching. They are mean girls.”

Dapkus agrees. “It’s the quintessential mean girl that is in high school that nobody likes, and somehow the producers managed to find a whole cast of them and put them in a house and they can just be mean to each other.”

That’s an example of the breezy back-and-forth the two have in their podcast, “Sippin’ Tea with E & G,” which they have been recording for the last two semesters in a studio refurbished for podcasts in the Titan Radio basement office.

“Sippin’ Tea with E & G” is the first student-hosted podcast produced at Titan Radio by Matt Sylvester, radio media coordinator, who is looking to make the station something of a hub for podcasts.

Sylvester also produces “Fram & Friends,” a podcast in its second season, in which the Cal State Fullerton president and Matt Olson, the university’s executive communications director, have casual conversations with students, alumna and faculty and staff members to discuss values, dreams and challenges, Fram Virjee said.

John Bradley Jackson, director of the CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship, records his radio show, “CSUF Startup Talk with JJ,” at Titan Radio, and then posts it on YouTube and his website as a podcast. He interviews local entrepreneurs, investors and professors to show what it means to do a startup.

Sylvester said he and others at the station saw how popular podcasts were becoming — Apple has 500,000 active podcasts in 100 languages — and before the fall semester upgraded the recording studio with a new desk, new mic and better insulation and put out the word that they were looking for podcast ideas.

“People say radio is dying,” said Sylvester, who graduated from CSUF in May with a bachelor’s in American Studies and a minor in broadcasting and started at the station two months later after pitching his dream job, where he would promote the station and make it a vehicle for music, news and culture.

“Podcast is the new radio in a way. It’s on demand, that’s the biggest thing.”
Listening to podcasts is also a great way to make a long commute — a regular occurrence in Orange County — less stressful, he said.

But Titan Radio isn’t the only spot where podcasts are originating at CSUF. “Outspoken,” a podcast of the Lawrence de Graaf Center for Oral and Public History, was one of the first podcasts at CSUF. It started in 2016.

“I’m shocked that there is anyone who doesn’t have a podcast now,” said Benjamin Cawthra, history professor and writer/host of the podcast, which makes use of interviews supplemented with materials from the center’s archives, home to more than 5,000 oral histories covering a wide range of people and topics.

For the past two years, American Studies professor Carrie Lane has read books and interviewed authors for her “New Books in American Studies” podcast, part of the New Books Network.

Lane said she noticed that podcasts on American Studies books were mostly about cultural histories — “a lot of Ben Franklin and Civil War, which is wonderful.” Few explored contemporary studies, ethnography or anthropology, she said. And that motivated her to start her own.

“I think with most podcasts, they’re reaching out to a certain tribe of people,” Lane said. “Because the internet is free, you can find people talking about issues that matter to you and don’t matter to others. There’s a critical mass talking about that one weird thing you are crazy about.”

Here’s more about the CSUF podcasts:
“Sippin Tea with E & G”
A podcast about Hollywood, pop culture with some current affairs sprinkled in is a perfect fit for Dapkus, a former musical theatre major who loves journalism and writes for the Daily Titan, and Gazich, who’s studying entertainment and tourism and works at Disney California Adventure Park’s Cars Land as a host for Lightning McQueen and Mater.
Gazich is a fan of Dax Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert,” and that got her thinking she might be good at podcasting.

“It’s really comfortable and chill, and he’s really easy to talk to,” she said about Shepard’s folky podcast.

“Sippin’ Tea with G” had a nice ring, she thought. Then she heard that Sylvester was looking for podcast ideas, and her roommate Dapkus mentioned she would like to do one, so they got to work and added E to the title.

Dapkus is more free-flowing, while Gazich likes things to be ordered and structured. They say they have worked out a balance between the two.

“If you listen to the first episode and the last one we did, I feel there is a progression in terms of comfortability and maturity,” Dapkus said.

While “The Bachelor” is a big focus, the two have discussed other topics such as a ghost they think lives in their house, the raising of the LGBTQ flag at CSUF for the first time and the high cost of a college education.

Both love to hear from friends, family and fellow students that they’re listening to the podcast. And with their graduations looming in May, they have plans to continue “Sippin’ Tea with E and G” on their own.

“I don’t want it to end,” Gazich said. “It’s a nice outlet of creativity for both of us.”

Gazich’s favorite podcast: “Armchair Expert”
Dapkus’ favorite podcast: “NPR Ted Radio Hour”

“Fram & Friends”
Virjee said his podcast grew out of a desire to engage people in stories about the inspirational people at CSUF in a way that was more accessible and exciting than twitter and other social media sites.

He knows Sylvester from other projects and thought Titan Radio would be a natural fit for a podcast.

“The goal of the podcast is to have a conversation with people who I believe have had a significant and positive impact on our campus,” Virjee said. “I was also looking for people I have connected with and have a special relationship and kinship with.”

So far he has done seven interviews. His subjects have included CSU Chancellor Timothy White; Mir Aminy, Project Rebound enrollment specialist; Gregory “Chris” Brown, a criminal justice professor; and most recently, Chris Peterson, CSUF choir director.

He said his goal is to create an atmosphere where his guests feel like they are just hanging out and talking.

“For me it’s almost like you’re sitting around having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine if that’s what you like,” Virjee said. “I envision it as sitting on the back porch of a cabin in the mountains, shooting the baloney about life.”

Virjee’s favorite podcasts: “The Daily,” by the New York Times, and “Ted Talks”

“CSUF Startup with JJ”
Jackson understands how difficult it must be for the average person to understand entrepreneurship.

“It’s really ambiguous. For the linear thinkers of the world, it ain’t right,” he said. “Every day is like a new day. You need to be able to cope with it. You have to have grit. You can’t give up. You have to keep working on it.”

His podcast is designed to showcase what one can do as a entrepreneur as well as the ups and downs.

The guests for his 11 episodes have included Jerry Conrey, founder of Conrey Insurance Brokers; Omoghene, a 2019 CSUF graduate and entertainment entrepreneur who has embarked on a singing career; and Andrew Ninh, founder of DocBot, a startup that uses AI to help doctors better identify cancer during colonoscopies.

Jackson enjoys doing the interviews. In fact, it’s a bit of wish-fulfillment for him — in high school he aspired to be a news reporter or DJ, he said.

One thing he has to remember, he said, is the reach of the podcast.

“Our audience is internet radio. You could be in Kenya and listen to us,” he said. “I have to be careful not to talk about Harbor Boulevard.”
Jackson’s favorite podcast: Lakers Nation

Cawthra and others at the Oral and Public History center knew they had plenty to work with when they decided to produce a podcast.

That included a catalog of “amazing voices” collected over 50 years, he said.
The 17 podcasts they’ve created have focused on such topics as the 2016 election, the center’s Women, Politics and Activism project and history professor Cora Granata’s Long Table project in Germany and at CSUF. They also did a podcast on associate history professor Jonathan Markley’s project on his ancestors during World War I.

“We thought that would be a fun topic to investigate,” said Cawthra, who works with archivist/writer Natalie Navar and producer/editors Keri Marken and Carie Rael on the podcast.

Cawthra said he always thought it would be fun to host a talk show. Most of the podcasts are round tables and interviews supplemented with archive materials, but he sometimes gets to do one-on-ones.

His favorite was with Sam Stephenson, author of three books on the work of photographer W. Eugene Smith, including “The Jazz Loft Project.”

Cawthra has an interest in the history of jazz — he was interviewed for a recent documentary on Miles Davis.

“It was a fun conversation,” he said about the interview with Stephenson. “He knows so much about the music and photography and the archives. He understands what documentaries are about — preserving stories.”

Cawthra and his colleagues are looking forward to moving their podcast recording — and other center functions — to a new, modern space on the sixth floor of the Pollak Library, hopefully by late May. They’ll have a soundproof oral history room to do the podcast and other interviews.

“I just took a hard hat tour,” he said. “It looks like it’s going to happen.”
Cawthra’s current favorite podcast: “Behind The Irishman: Netflix”

“New Books in American Studies”
Lane is not an interviewer for NPR, but getting her own podcast is the next best thing.

She works with the New Books Network, which she heard was looking for new hosts and signed on.

“When I found out I would be able to get the interviews and the books and find the people and not do the digital editing and marketing, I knew it was for me,” Lane said.

Interviews are done at home, with a computer program called Zencastr that records both sides of the discussion.

Her subjects are authors of books she has read and loved or that she really wanted to read but hadn’t gotten to yet. She asks them about their writing process and to talk about the chapters or topics they cover.

“I also like to get authors to talk about themselves and what matters to them,” said Lane, who has done 12 podcasts so far.

She has talked to Kimberly Dark, author of “Fat, Pretty, and Soon to Be Old: A Makeover for Self and Society;” Sara Komarnisky, author of Mexicans in Alaska: An Ethnography of Mobility, Place and Transnational Life; and one of her favorites, Susan Schulten, who wrote “A History of America in 100 Maps,” among others.

Her next subject is someone closer to home: Susie Woo, a CSUF American Studies professor and author of “Framed by War: Korean Children and Women at the Crossroads of U.S. Empire.”

Lane’s favorite podcasts: “The Hilarious World of Depression,” “Freakonomics” and “Where Should We Begin, with Esther Perel”

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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