With podcasts like 'Majority Minority,' McClatchy wants to shatter the Beltway bubble
As she was finishing up her interview with Franco Ordoñez and Bill Douglas, Rep. Pramila Jayapal brushed away a tear.
"One of the last things she said, as she was wiping her eye is, 'I didn't expect that to be that personal,'" said Ordoñez, McClatchy's White House correspondent.
Ordoñez did. In fact, it's what his new podcast is all about.
Meet "Majority Minority," the new, 30-minute show from McClatchy D.C. that aims to stand out among the growing crowd of podcasts by featuring in-depth, honest conversations with influential people of color in the capital.
That's a tall order. There are about a gazillion interview podcasts in the world, and it seems like a hefty proportion of those feature interviews with newsmakers. But many of those — "Pod Save America," "The Ezra Klein Show" and "The Global Politico," to name a few — feature White hosts. Podcasting in general is still extremely White, so a show hosted by two journalists of color (Ordoñez is Hispanic, co-host Douglas, McClatchy's Congress reporter, is Black) provides some missing diversity.
But Ordoñez is hoping the podcast stands out for another reason, too: It's not aimed at the typical D.C. audience of policy wonks, lobbyists and Beltway movers-and-shakers. He and his co-host are trying to conduct the interviews so they're interesting to listeners in the cities where The McClatchy Company owns 30 newspapers — places such as Sacramento, California, Miami, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina.
That's especially important in light of the endless talk after the 2016 election that journalists should do a better job of covering the vast expanse of America outside of the New York-Boston-D.C. corridor, Ordoñez said.
"After the November election, you heard so much, so often everywhere and anywhere how we were out-of-touch with our communities," Ordoñez said. "McClatchy is the place where we are in touch with our communities. Those are our readers. Those are our listeners."
The architect of McClatchy's podcasting strategy is Washington Executive Editor Kristin Roberts, who joined the company in December after serving as Politico's national editor. Roberts, who formerly hosted Politico's "Nerdcast," hosts another podcast called "Beyond the Bubble," which translates the machinations of D.C. politics to the wider world.
Developing a slate of podcasts was a priority for Roberts from the first day she started at McClatchy, said Roberts, who is currently developing a third, as-yet unnamed podcast. In addition to showcasing the company's know-how and informing listeners, they serve the added purpose of "throwing cold water on the idea that Washington knows best" and tries to remedy the gulf between D.C. and the rest of America that was evident during the election.
Plus, since "Majority Minority" will feature politicians from both sides of the aisle, it has the potential to provide a respite from partisanship, she said.
"What we've tried to do is show the reach of McClatchy," Roberts said. "And I think what differentiates that show from all of the other political podcasts is that we are drawing on the expertise that is available through our national network of political correspondents."
Both podcasts are still very new and they haven't been moneymakers yet. McClatchy hasn't sold ads for "Beyond the Bubble" or "Majority Minority" yet, Roberts said. She declined to provide download numbers for "Beyond the Bubble," which debuted at the end of January.
Still, she says she's confident that "the economics of this can be worked out" if McClatchy can put together a consistently high-quality show.
On that front, they have some help. Davin Coburn, an employee at McClatchy, is now producing podcasts full-time, and Roberts has plans to make an additional hire. The company already has studio space, and, she says, a ready audience.
"I know there are hundreds and hundreds of podcasts out there, but I don't know of one that's doing what we're doing here with 'Majority Minority' — this kind of conversational, personal profile-type look off the news," she said.
Correction: A previous version of this story said former Obama adviser Cecilia Munoz brushed away a tear. In fact, it was Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington).