In January, 2012, America's digerati pulled off the broadest, most powerful political protest ever orchestrated on the Internet.
One year later DecodeDC revisits the furor that surrounded the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and asks: "What happened? And what next?"
DecodeDC is hosted by NPR-veteran Andrea Seabrook and produced by Lina Misitzis with technical support from Peter Seabrook. The podcast regularly deciphers Washington's language and procedure so listeners can focus on what matters: the U.S. capital's (and capitol's) most compelling and important stories.
Andrea Seabrook reflects on her experience building a new podcast from the ground-up, Behind the Scenes.
Andrea Seabrook is the founder of DecodeDC. In July of 2012, Seabrook left NPR where she was a long-time Congressional Correspondent. Seabrook hosted Weekend All Things Considered, has been a regular guest host of All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Talk of the Nation, and has worked with NPR's Planet Money team. She has a bachelors degree from Earlham College, and worked and studied for several years in Mexico City. Seabrook even had a bit-part in the prime time telenovela, Demasiado Corazon.
Lina Misitzis produces DecodeDC. In September of 2012, she left NBC, where she had spent two years working at Saturday Night Live, The Rachel Maddow Show, and, most notoriously, as an NBC Page. When she wasn’t wearing her Page costume in New York, Misitzis could often be found sampling every kind of bacon-infused food, and gazing dreamily down city blocks. She loves connecting actors to Kevin Bacon in six degrees or less.
Andrea Seabrook reflects on her years covering Congress at NPR.
BEHIND THE SCENES with Andrea Seabrook
How did DecodeDC come about? Was there an "a-HA" moment, or have you been dreaming of such a project all along?
My "a-HA" moment came back in the summer of 2011 -- and it wasn't really a bright, happy "a-HA." I had spent three months covering Congress's ridiculous partisan bickering over the US debt limit, and I came to the realization that my work, my reporting, my hours of effort on the story did almost nothing to inform my listeners of the real problems in our government. So it was more of a sad, tired "uh-HUH." It was another year before I had a firm concept of what I wanted to do instead: DecodeDC.
How does this episode fit in the general constellation of stories you're pursuing with DecodeDC?
In every episode of the show I try to tell an important story that isn't getting much play in the broader media. This show, "The Future Was Now" is about the Stop SOPA internet blackout in January 2012, how it changed Washington, and how it's molding a generation. I find this story endlessly fascinating, deeply important, and it's critically under-reported.
How is your process for DecodeDC stories different from producing NPR reports? Easier/harder, more liberating/scarier, more fun/more work... etc.
Well it's a different planet I'm on, being able to produce stories that are as long as I want. That's both a blessing and a curse -- I can fit everything I want into the story, but I always feel at risk for losing focus in the piece. It's a ton more work, too. At NPR I was often on deadline and at some point I HAD to stop gathering tape and tinkering with my script. Now I could go on forever. But while I struggle with being my own boss and my own editor, I also feel wildly liberated. Ecstatic! Euphoric! Striking out on my own was one of the most satisfying things I've ever done.
What are your near future/long-term plans for the podcast?
Right now I'm working on two giant, important goals: putting out regular, consistently great shows, and figuring out how to make DecodeDC a self-sustaining business. That's about all I can handle right now. I do have big, bold ideas for the future, but I'm trying to rein those in and not get distracted. And boy am I easy to distract. Hey! It's a squirrel!
In late 2012 you completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund DecodeDC (congratulations!) What did you learn about your audience through that process?
I learned that people are desperate for some hard truth-telling about the mess in Washington. Listeners are so hungry for real news, they'll donate their hard-earned money to get it. And when they do that, they make me accountable to them in a way that feels really good. Every time I ask a lawmaker a question, or decide whether to pursue a particular story, I have those hundreds and hundreds of names in my head -- people for whom I am a kind of proxy in Washington, DC. That is critical to keeping DecodeDC fresh, sharp, and relevant.
We've noticed (unscientifically) that most successful indie podcasts in the extended public radio world are hosted by men. Thoughts?
I have noticed that too! Many of them are great friends -- I've worked closely with Roman Mars of 99% Invisible, and others -- and they're doing wonderful, inspiring work. As for the gender gap, I can tell you that throughout my career at NPR, young people came to me for advice on getting into journalism. Twenty-something women would ask, what degree should I get? What's the next internship for me? They seemed to be looking for some authority to give them the credentials or experience to be a reporter. Young men, on the other hand, would ask how do I start now?
Your donation to the Third Coast International Audio Festival makes it possible for us to share creative and compelling radio stories with listeners across the globe, and to champion the ever-growing community of producers who bring this incredible work our way.