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?