Weaving the Endless Thread with Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson

Weaving the Endless Thread with Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson
Weaving the Endless Thread with Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson

Mar 09 2023 | 00:40:22

Episode 0 March 09, 2023 00:40:22

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

On this episode of Audience, Stuart chats with Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson from the acclaimed podcast, Endless Thread. It is quite a feat to be able to build a show that stays relevant while also standing the test of time. Endless Thread has proven to be one of those great podcasts. On the show, Ben and Amory explore the depths of the internet in order to find niche communities, untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other jaw-dropping stories. 

Today, Amory and Ben talk about what makes a good story, how they conduct their research, and how to stay relevant in the quickly evolving world of the internet. They also talk about the importance of getting out from behind the computer screen and conducting their own fieldwork.

If you have any questions about this episode or want to get some of the resources we mentioned, head over to Castos.com/podcast. And as always, if you’re enjoying the show please share it with someone who you think would enjoy it as well. It is your continued support that will help us continue to help others. Thank you so much! Never miss another show by subscribing at castos.com/subscribe.

Today you’ll learn about:

  • The story behind Endless Thread
  • What makes a story worth covering
  • Putting together research and interviews for complex stories
  • The difference between starting an episode and ending one
  • The trial and error journey of podcasting
  • Funding and capital for podcasting
  • The importance of getting out of the recording booth


Endless Thread: https://www.wbur.org/podcasts/endlessthread/about 

Castos Academy: https://academy.castos.com/ 

Castos, private podcast: https://academy.castos.com/privatepodcast/ 

Castos, website: https://castos.com/ 

Castos, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/castos  

Clubhouse video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8729ZpWpmIw 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:01 A phrase that seems to get used a lot in our current discourse is both things can be true. Really it's just a shorter version of saying something like, Hey, this thing we're discussing is pretty nuanced and most ideas are not mutually exclusive. So with that phrase in mind, it's true that the internet can be a virtual wasteland of misinformation, sex, predators, scammers, and all manner of depravity. It's also true that the internet has connected people in a way like nothing else ever has. Both things are true. Speaker 2 00:00:37 The worst part about the internet is I think just like a failure to recognize each other's humanity. Like a failure to realize that the person that you're talking to is a person and that they are more complex than you know their representation on the internet. Speaker 3 00:00:54 The best part is it brings people together faster and from greater distances than ever before possible. And whether that's like interacting with a stranger around a common interest that you both get to talk about online or seeing a loved ones like Newborn Baby via video chat. Speaker 0 00:01:18 Next, you'll hear how two journalists use the internet to source stories and follow lead after lead for a unique audio experience. My name is Stuart and this is Audience, a Casto original series where we go behind the scenes of some of the best podcasts to explore the world of audio creation and the creators behind those shows. Speaker 0 00:01:45 One of the best ways to learn how to do something better is to go directly to the top people in that field. So at Casto, we do just that. Each episode of audience features some of the most talented and creative podcasters around, and we hope that by listening it will inspire more creativity in your work as you dive into this journey that is audio creation along the way, CAOs wants to be part of your creative journey. From our suite of tools, future Rich hosting platform and even our production services, we're here to help connect directly with us by emailing hello@caos.com or by click it on the LinkedIn the show notes. Speaker 3 00:02:26 We made an episode that was about a mountain of dishware that someone found in the woods and they couldn't remember where it was and they had no idea why it was there, but it was like 60 feet long, 20 plus feet high. Speaker 0 00:02:43 Emery Severson is the founding producer of a show called Endless Thread. It's actually one of several podcasts offered by W R's iLab in Boston, which is an NPR affiliate. Together with their co-host and executive producer Ben Brock Johnson, they probe the depths of the internet to, as they put it, explore its online communities, define untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other jaw-dropping stories online and in real life. Endless thread first launched in 2018 and topics covered on the show run the gamut of what the internet has to offer from scary accounts of online harassment, lighthearted tells of internet pranks, sobering stories of deadly conspiracies, fascinating reporting on artificial intelligence to peculiar things like that. Mountain of dishware that Amery mentioned that was chronicled in a pair of 2019 episodes called We Want Plates and it's Follow Up Pile of Crockery. That episode all started from a weird picture found in a Reddit thread. Speaker 3 00:03:45 And so one element of that episode, it ended up being a two-parter, but one element was this picture is so ridiculous, let's just go around. This was in the before times, so let's just go around the office and show this picture to people and let them genuinely react to it and tell us like what, what is that? Why did, maybe it's hi, have them share their theories with us about why is this mountain of dishware there? How could it have gotten there and share their theories? And that little montage ended up just capturing, you know, the thing that we were struggling to do, which was just to share the sheer awe and befuddlement <laugh> that is captured in this picture. And like other people can do that for you sometimes a lot better than you can. Speaker 4 00:04:31 Holy moly. It's crazy <laugh>. It's awesome. What am I looking at? <laugh>? I think it's a mountain of trash plates, I think. Yeah, there's some square ones. <laugh>. It looks like a pile of junk, but holy god it's teac cups dishes. Speaker 5 00:04:51 It kind of looks like if the dining room from the Titanic washed up on shore, this is what you would find Speaker 4 00:04:59 Huge. Doesn't even fit in the frame of the picture. Speaker 2 00:05:02 It's gotta be like at least 10 feet, 12 feet high, Speaker 5 00:05:05 Easily like a 15 foot mount, maybe more. A 20 foot mountain of of plates Speaker 4 00:05:12 Could be a million plates, a billion plates. I've never seen anything like this in my life. It's curious. I would like to know more. Speaker 2 00:05:20 I don't know what this is for Speaker 4 00:05:22 <laugh>. Oh, it's for the Plate Association of America. You Speaker 2 00:05:26 Got it. It's perfect. Platonic plates. Speaker 4 00:05:28 <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:05:33 I was lucky enough recently to catch up with Ben and Amory for a conversation, given the range of topics they cover, I was eager to understand from them what makes a story worth covering. Speaker 2 00:05:46 Humor, empathy, mystery, and facts that I didn't know before that are fascinating and, and like maybe a personal, just like a, you know, a narrative that I can follow. Yeah, just I love a good yarn. So something that that grips me from the beginning and, and gets me more and more interested as I go and lands in a place that makes me think big thoughts, slightly big thoughts about the way that we all interact with each other and hopefully there's some chuckles along the way. Speaker 3 00:06:23 And at the end you, you conclude the adventure. Either having really accomplished something along the way, maybe you solved the mystery or answered the question, or it's gotta be like some real question that you genuinely want answered and that you are ready to go on the journey for. Speaker 0 00:06:43 So a weird photo in a Reddit thread turned into a two episode arc that sent Ben and Amery far away from the comforts of their Boston studio to the remote woods of Western Pennsylvania. Speaker 6 00:06:56 Just trying to stay alert cuz it is a little creepy what's happening here. Speaker 7 00:07:06 So Ben has gone down the road past a metal gate. It's definitely clearly like a do not go back here. Ugh. Uh, and I'm just nervous about this whole thing. Speaker 6 00:07:25 Okay, so what's up ahead? Is it technically a trailer, like a trailer that someone would live in? Speaker 0 00:07:43 Is it real common for you guys to go out and report on a story, do all your investigative work, talk to people, field recordings, all that, and then the story by the time you start putting the story together, you're like, this is dovetailed in something else entirely. Speaker 3 00:08:01 Hmm. I'm sure we have, I'm trying to think of a specific example or even just an example of an episode where how we ended up putting it together was not at all <laugh> how we set out to put it together. Can you, yeah. Does anything come to mind for you immediately, Ben? Speaker 2 00:08:18 I mean, I, uh, no, Speaker 0 00:08:21 Maybe I'm, maybe I'm the only one then that maybe that's just me not being organized and prepared when I <laugh> when I start No doing like work cause Speaker 3 00:08:29 No, no, no. I Speaker 2 00:08:30 Mean, it depend. No, I think it changes all the time. If you're not, if if your story doesn't change, I don't think you're, you're probably not sort of doing the job, right? Like, um, cuz you, you want to start from a place of, of, you know, you have some expectations about how something's gonna play out and how you're going to tell it, but you have to sort of remain open to where it leads, where you're reporting leads and stuff. So I think always the story changes. And, and I think also just, and, and it depends on if you're talking about like the na the fundamental nature of the story itself, or the blocking of the epi. Like a lot of times we'll be like, oh, like I thought this beginning would work, but it doesn't work. We need a new beginning or a new ending or something like that. Speaker 2 00:09:14 I think beginnings and endings are really hard, um, beginnings for me. Beginnings are more fun and endings are more like, you know, just drive me crazy cuz they're hard. And then the middle is just the stupid middle, um, <laugh>. Um, but I, I, yeah, I think there have been examples of that. I mean, I don't think we knew where the glitter, the, our glitter episode, we didn't know where that was gonna land at all. And it, it landed in a pretty surprising and, and in some ways deflating place. But I think it was funny too where it landed. So it was okay. Yeah, Speaker 3 00:09:50 It's a rare occasion when you, you sort of solve a mystery and you almost wish you hadn't <laugh>. But, um, yeah, yeah, that happens too. You have to be, it's, you know, I'm thinking about how different our process is, has been enabled to be by the fact that we can start an episode, we can start working on a story and we don't have to finish it by the end of that day. If you're a reporter working on a daily deadline, for example, covering a news issue, you might go into your interviews knowing, all right, I need this and this and this from this person, and I only need those things because I basically need, my deadline is so tight that I need to create a roadmap of what this story is, and then I'm gonna slot these people into that roadmap. It would be so sad if endless thread were made that way because, you know, I don't think that you are disorganized by any means steward. Speaker 3 00:10:44 If you're going into, if you're talking to someone that you think might be able to help you understand something, you have a general sense of what they're gonna say. You know, they can string a sentence together that's important. You don't wanna waste your time with someone who you know isn't going to serve you from an audio perspective. But again, if you know everything that person is gonna tell you, that's so boring <laugh>. Like that's, even if they're great at at delivering that information, it doesn't leave any room for you to, to go in a direction that you never saw coming and then it, and that's gonna be way better than what you had mapped out originally. So I think quite often we're, we have a sense of when we're telling a story, what kinds of people we might need to look for or talk to. But if you have the time to be rerouted based on something that that person said, and then follow that next, you know, go down that other rabbit hole that's better than what you had originally planned go for that. Speaker 0 00:11:43 I heard a lawyer once say, you know, never ask a witness during a cross examination. Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. Yeah. I feel like maybe we do the, the exact opposite. Opposite. Like, I never want to answer, I never want to ask a question that I know the answer to. I work maybe the opposite of lawyers. So, all right. All right. I feel a little bit better about my process having haven't heard you guys say that. That's <laugh>. Speaker 2 00:12:06 You're good, Stuart. Don't sweat it, man. Speaker 0 00:12:08 You're good. You spend a lot of time kicking myself, but make, I always feel like I make my job a lot harder than, than it has to be, but May maybe I'm not the only one. No, I Speaker 2 00:12:16 Hate to tell you, I think that's everyone. Speaker 0 00:12:17 Yeah. Well, you guys make it seem a little more seamless. Uh, you know, you guys have probably heard some variation of this joke before. You know, this should be a podcast, right? And it's usually kind of disparaging of like the idea that like, you know, people all the time have this idea like they're having a conversation with their friends and they're like, this should be a podcast. So how do you guys avoid that trap? I mean, you source <laugh> all of your material from the internet. So how, how do you guys avoid that trap? I mean, like it's, you could go down a billion rabbit holes, I guess. Speaker 2 00:12:53 We don't avoid it. We get caught in it all the time. Speaker 0 00:12:55 <laugh>. Yeah. Speaker 3 00:12:56 Well, yeah, well that's true. And also like podcast, you know, my, my husband and I both listen to a ton of podcasts. Our podcast diets could not be more different. You know, he really loves cha more chat style show of, you know, two people who have a good rapport talking about something funny that happened that week. Maybe there's more structure to it, but that to him is time well spent. And you know, to me, I am really looking for the more narrative. Give me a great series that I can binge and then be sad that it's over. But there's no, like, I, I have no elitist feelings about podcasts in general. Like audio is, is a fantastic medium that allows you to consume content or enjoy conversations while you're going for a walk or doing the dishes. And so I think Endless Thread has had, I'm, I feel really lucky that Endless Thread has had the freedom to, we have Chattier style episodes. Speaker 3 00:13:59 We just released one last week that I, I loved listening back to. Cause I said, you know, this is endless. It's pretty good, right? Yeah. I said, it's not bad. I felt like this is endless thread too, like glitter swimming hole, GTU plates, all of those like really rich adventure episodes are endless thread, but it's also endless thread when Ben and I just like each share something that we saw or found that made us smile or made us think. And so we, yeah, I think Ben is actually very right when he says we fall into it all the time and we try to, um, we try to bring our listeners like the essence of endless thread every week and a, a sense of stories that delight and inspire us. But I'm actually, I think it's okay to realize that, you know what, we need to give this story a different treatment because we don't, this actually isn't a big adventure. It's a, Hey Ben, come gather around the campfire. I have something I wanna tell you. And you know, we don't have to make a big deal about it, but I think you're really gonna like this <laugh>. So yeah, I, I'd say don't worry about it if your episode, if you're like, oh no, is this worth a podcast? It's like, well, do you wanna tell someone about it then record yourself and release it <laugh>. You know, I'm not a, I'm not as, I'm, I don't know, maybe Ben feels differently. Speaker 2 00:15:26 Yeah, I think, I think you just kind of have to kind of find your way. And sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed. And the ones that feel really good, you kind of know on the one hand, yes, like that should be a podcast is a very easy thing to do. And then on the other hand, like I have definitely had the experience of like sitting down with something and being like, okay, this is supposed to be 20 minutes long or thereabouts. And, and, and then starting to like build it out and then being like, you know, it's like whatever the, the thing you're holding turns to sand and falls through your fingers and you're like, oh my God, this is what, oh God. Oh, oh no. And then it's like not really a story <laugh> and like, to me that yeah, that happens, you know, where we kind of like, like, oh shoot, this is not, this is, there's no there, there for this thing. And, and so it, it's tricky. You kind of <laugh>, you kind of like, you figure it out as it's happening to you. I guess. Speaker 3 00:16:25 I think you're right. I mean, I think you're making me realize, Ben, that maybe it's not that I have no bar to clear. It's that as you're working on it, if it falls apart because you lose interest in it, or the more time you spend on it, the less time you wanna spend on it, that's a different feeling than like, you know what, this isn't exactly what I thought it was, but I'm really into this and I think that people will be happy to have heard this. So yeah, I think, I think you're right. Speaker 0 00:16:54 Can you give me like the 30,000 foot view of how endless threats started? Speaker 2 00:16:59 I was sort of low-key recruited to, to make the show, and I did pilot a version of the show pr you know, I think probably before Emory technically signed on, but Emory and I were talking about the show before, it was, before it was, you know, as it was being conceptualized and before it was being executed. And, um, and Emery was, was the first producer on the show. And it became clear very quickly that, um, that we enjoyed each other's company on Mike and that Emery was, was ready for that. I mean, not that whatever, like Emery was as capable if not more capable, though capable than me at that piece of it anyway. And so it just felt natural that we kind of fell in together, even though we started out with that sort of, I was hosting and she was producing. Um, so we were really, yeah. Speaker 2 00:17:46 Anyway, we, we were, I think we're equal, equal, equal partners in the sort of founding of the show and creation of the show. And she was around when it was, was sort of more of a glimmer in our, our former colleague Jess Halpert High. But basically, you know, W B R had produced a story about, you know, something that, uh, something really nice that had happened with a redditor kind of reaching out to the larger Reddit community, um, about something that was going on in their life and, and having like an incredible sort of supportive response from that community. And, and that I think was kind of the, the seed of an idea for W B U R of like, oh, like these online communities are really, you know, there, there's a lot of engagement there and like we, and there's interesting stories that are happening there and like, we could look more closely at that. Speaker 2 00:18:37 And, um, one of our former colleagues tweeted at Alexis Hanian at one point and was like, we should make a podcast together. And he was kind of already making a podcast, but then, you know, we kind of joined forces and, and um, and by then he had kind of cycled out of making the podcast, but we, we just started creating the show about these Reddit communities and, and subreddits. Um, and you know, I think over time we've, we've tried a lot of different things and I think there's still a lot more to try in terms of the actual format of the show. You know, like we've, we've done shows that are essentially just comment threads and that's the entire content. And then we've done shows, you know, like the, you know, like the, the swimming hole show where we, we kind of take a post or take this thing that's, that's, um, there's some existence of it online and it's a jumping off point for us to, to explore in real life and, and also online. But I think Endless Thread has always had this kind of aspect of like, the power of online communities, both good and bad and, and looking carefully at that. So that's the kind of, I guess, 30,000 foot view of how the show got started and, and, um, and how it's progressed over time. I think we've always stuck to that idea of like the, the power, the, you know, the power of internet communities for good and for otherwise <laugh> And, and looking at that in the show, Speaker 0 00:20:09 I've observed in recent years kind of, I'll call it some tension between new media and legacy media, like an NPR and A W B U R. I get to sense maybe you guys have your foot in both camps a little bit. Does that seem fair? Speaker 3 00:20:27 Yeah, I think so. Speaker 2 00:20:29 Sure. Speaker 0 00:20:30 Have you guys noticed that tension or have you felt it in any way? Speaker 3 00:20:35 Huh. I don't know if I would've described it as a tension. Um, I, I think what I first noticed is, uh, for example when, when W B U R launched Modern Love, the podcast with the New York Times, that really put W B R out there in the podcast space as a, as a top creator of podcasts. I forget what the statistics were, but you know, modern Love, uh, was at the top of the podcast charts, the Apple podcast charts, whatever weight you give that for a little bit. And that was all really exciting. And now you have private podcast companies where this is all they do. Uh, it's not, you know, we are a W B R is a public radio station. We have an event space, we have newsletters, we have, you know, it's a, it's a whole operation and podcasts are a part of that and an important part, but it's not W BU's main focus for a reason. Speaker 3 00:21:33 We have a, there's a bigger mission here that, that the organization needs to fulfill. And so BU r being a public media organization is naturally gonna have a harder time keeping up with the, with the kind of, especially the money resources that private podcast companies can put into things like, um, marketing their shows and, and the distribution muscle beyond our public media circle. It's not to say we can't do it, but I think the heat has been turned up by other companies that can really just focus on this and have the capital to do so and resources to do so. And so it's just kind of changed. It's changed the, the, the field has expanded in a way that is exciting because, you know, there's so many great shows out there and I listen to a lot of them and I welcome the industry expanding because I'm in this field cuz I love it. So bring it on. Speaker 0 00:22:29 I do want to get into an episode you guys made in September of 2022. That way we can kind of see what you guys do in practice. But before we kind of get into the weeds of making that episode, you know, you've mentioned that you work for A W B U R, so I'm curious what your relationship with them is. Do they have a lot of editorial oversight? What are they providing for you in terms of like resources, that sort of thing? Speaker 2 00:22:53 I think we, we, we are under-resourced and undersupported in general. Um, and usually that's my fault cuz I'm also the leader of the department now. So, um, I would say like endless thread I think has relatively good support from all of our colleagues that kind of rotate through the show at this point and make it with us, but also not as much as we would like. And we're start starting to work more with editors. You know, we had like a dedicated editor to our show a couple of years ago, but they were editing every show that W B R put out and, and their area of expertise was not the internet. So it was, um, that was tricky to navigate. I think now we're in some ways we're better resourced, but in other ways we need more resource to support the hopefully continued greatness of the show now that we're kind kind of five years into making it and it's survived longer than a lot of podcasts do. We do group edits, that's the way that we, you know, that's the way that we essentially go through the show and um, help protect each other from missteps usually and, and um, and try to make the show as good as we can make it. And we could always use more editorial help, uh, and support than probably we have cuz we're a public radio organization. But you know, what else is new? Speaker 3 00:24:12 You know, kind of to that point and also to your tension question, Stuart, I feel like maybe this may still, tension might not be the right word, but something about making a podcast for a public radio station and any public service is that I do think that it's easy to forget that public services are funded largely by the public. And so I think if there's any, um, tension that I feel in my heart, it's that I want, I want everyone who listens to and appreciates a podcast made by a public media organization to do the thing that we say <laugh> you should do all the time and truly seriously support it. If there's a, if there's a membership platform for that station, give them five bucks a month because much like a, a public library or any public resource that you love, like you, you support it or, or you lose it gradually over time. And so I guess that's what I would stress is to people who listen to a wide variety of podcasts, protect your public media podcasts with with your dollars, however many of them you can comfortably give because it, it really does matter. If we're going to keep making podcasts at W B Y, we need to hear and feel the support of the people who, who love them. Speaker 0 00:25:33 I, I'm kind of giving you an example of something I I've wi I witnessed probably in the last like year or two, I'm not gonna name anyone's names cuz I, I don't, I don't know if it's be real fair to them to do that, but there was a writer who had done a piece for The Atlantic and I think he'd spent a better part of seven or eight years doing a profile on a person. And it, it was kind of akin to like true crime or something like that. But, you know, the guy spent seven years, it was, you know, just a huge part of his professional identity and spent, you know, God knows how much, how many hours and, and, and it was a great piece. And then within six months of that piece being published, someone ripped it off and made a True Crime podcast. Speaker 2 00:26:13 Oh yeah, I remember this. Sure. Speaker 0 00:26:15 Yeah. Right. And so like, it, it started some like, really interesting conversations and I don't, I don't want to like just pick on like the true crime genre, but it, it does seem like maybe they are the perpetrators a lot where they, they don't always maybe gift, they don't always cite their work or their research correctly. Or there's journalist, Speaker 2 00:26:34 You can't just read a Wikipedia article, Stuart, come on, Speaker 0 00:26:37 <laugh>. Well, I, come on, you know, you you can't, that's a Speaker 2 00:26:41 Podcast. You <laugh> <laugh> Speaker 0 00:26:43 <laugh>. Yeah, the, sorry, go on, go on the explainer. No, the explainer guy. Yeah, that's, that's another, that's another trope that probably deserves some, some scrutiny. But, uh, I, I, so I guess like where I was going with like your relationship with W B R and tension between Legacy media and new media is that you guys, I, I assume right, probably have standards in a framework with wi with which you have to work, you know, there are journalistic ethics and standards that, you know, someone who works for NPR has to abide by that an independent creator doesn't necessarily have. And that's where, I mean, there's like these tension points and it creates this back and forth of, well, you guys are just being a bunch of pretentious gatekeepers. Well, you know, you guys are, you know, what you guys are doing is really unethical and quite problematic if you're, you know, reporting on someone who's been murdered and trying to track down their families and, and all that. So that, that's kind of where I was, was going with that. And, and, and I think people who are accountable to a larger institution like NPR probably have a different perspective on that than again, you have someone who isn't necessarily as, as accountable. Speaker 2 00:27:52 It's, no, it's tricky. We've bumped into it a fair bit, especially with endless thread because it, it is, there is a tension point there where, you know, when we deal with things like anonymity, you know, when we deal with things like, you know, a lot of things on the internet, <laugh>, it's like funny how a organization, a more legacy organization will be like, fine quoting a tweet from someone that they have no idea who that person is. But then like when we put that person on a podcast or someone like them on a podcast, all of a sudden we start ringing our hands about anonymity. So I think there is a sort of progression of this stuff that's happening and creating tension points within legacy media organizations that want to enter the current century and also want to preserve their journalistic ethics and journalistic processes. And that is an area of vociferous discussion, um, when it comes to how we make our content and who we make it with. Speaker 3 00:28:55 And it's an ongoing conversation. I mean, the summer of 2020 and the, the murder of George Floyd and whether journalists could tweet B l M without, you know, their organization striking them for, for saying something like that. Or, you know, Roe v Wade being overturned and journalists speaking out on behalf of women's reproductive rights. And, you know, that's not something that you ever thought you could do before. And, and in some organizations maybe you can't, but you also have journalists at legacy organizations or not who still don't even vote. And then you have others who, who will put their political and social rights beliefs out there and say, here's why I think this actually makes me a better journalist and here's why. This doesn't mean that I can't cover an issue fairly. So I think these are, there are many pain points and I think the conversations have to continue because journalistic standards exist for a reason, and also the world keeps changing. And if we stick to certain guns without entertaining the idea that, you know, maybe that's outdated, maybe we're wrong about that, then we're just, we're not going to lift up this, this field of work at all. As, as the years go on. Speaker 0 00:30:17 In September of 2022, Ben and Amory once again found themselves far away from their computers and the safety of home into upstate New York and search of a swimming hole that Ben knew about. Speaker 2 00:30:28 This one was sort of started off the internet and then it went on the internet and then went back off the internet. And by that, I mean, this story really came from something that I kept seeing, which was this old man standing at the very, very, very top of a tree in the middle of a gorge that I believed to be the location of what might have been a swimming hole. And I kept seeing him driving through this gorge, um, in upstate New York, and I really wanted to find out about that swimming hole. But the road was just dangerous and dicey and busy enough that I, I never followed up. And then for some reason, I can't even remember now, but for some reason I just, I decided one day like, I really want to make a story about this. I wanna make a radio story about this. Speaker 2 00:31:19 And again, this is maybe like going a little bit outside of the normal endless thread zone, but I did discover a lot of online information about this place and this guy. And there, you know, without giving too much away, there are, uh, you know, online communities that are related to, um, cliff jumping. And, um, that's how I started to learn more. And then I sort of discovered the story and figured out the story, not very, yeah, I mean it didn't take me long. Um, but I just really wanted to go on an adventure with Amery. And so I annoyingly asked her to tag along and then, and then even though I knew the answer to everything teased and cajoled her to, to discover the, the journey herself and was, uh, scoundrel in that process as much as I could be. Speaker 3 00:32:09 Yeah, Speaker 9 00:32:10 I think now is the time for me to go. I'm gonna go. Really? Yeah. Speaker 3 00:32:14 Okay, Ben, you got this. I believe in you. Don't think too much. Speaker 10 00:32:28 1, 2, 7. Speaker 13 00:32:51 I'm proud of you. Speaker 12 00:33:01 Good job, Dan. Speaker 2 00:33:03 Yeah, so this is the part where I finally also made the jump, uh, was not nearly as high as the man up in the tree, but it was pretty high, I would say. And Speaker 3 00:33:15 Yeah, I think they said it was like almost 30 feet. Speaker 2 00:33:18 It was 30 feet, yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it was nice. That's Speaker 0 00:33:21 About a distance. It starts, uh, messing with your head. I remember when I was in the scouts, they took us to a army base here, and the, the paratroopers trained on like this platform that's 34 feet in the air and they said if you can jump from 34 feet, you can jump from like a thousand. I don't know if that's true or not, but Oh God, Speaker 13 00:33:38 It was pretty freaky out. It was Speaker 0 00:33:40 Pretty freaky to jump from it. So I don't know. Speaker 3 00:33:42 How do you feel, Ben? Can you jump from a thousand feet? Speaker 2 00:33:45 Oh gosh, Speaker 3 00:33:45 A thousand footer next summer. Speaker 2 00:33:47 I mean, I have been skydiving and, but that was a long, you know, I was a younger lad. Speaker 0 00:33:52 Looking back on it, like what are your thoughts on making that story now and like what kind of memories do you have about doing that? Speaker 3 00:33:58 I think some of what I'm gonna say is probably shaped by the conversation that we've just had, because I've been thinking about, you know, when going back to maybe what was the very first question you asked us about the, the best thing about the internet and the worst thing about the internet. One of the other things that I would put in the, the worst camp is just when the internet allows us to not go out into the real world. And, you know, a lot of people would say, well, the internet is the real world now, like, this is how we live our lives. But it is so valuable to get out into, I mean, the phrase that we would use is the field. Get out into the field listening back to it. I think the, the moments of joy in this episode are just the, the points when we're out talking to random people in the real world. Speaker 3 00:34:51 And when you just kind of buck up and say, I'm gonna ask this person a question and I don't know them and they don't know me, and they might not wanna talk to me, but something's gonna happen when I go up to them, something's gonna happen. And, you know, it could be magic. You never know what you're gonna get. So yeah, I guess I'm listening back, especially because we're recording this in the Dead of Winter and that was made in, you know, the warmth and promise and hope that is summer. I'm reminded just how great it is to get out of your little booth in your little bubble and just go talk to real people. I would encourage everyone to do the same if you're used to just kind of talking to a person over the internet behind a microphone like we are now, which is great. Like challenge yourself to the next episode that you make to just like, Nope, I'm gonna go talk to a person in real life and we're gonna make some awkward eye contact and <laugh>, it's gonna be great. Speaker 0 00:35:51 All right. I gotta work myself up to it because <laugh>, that's, uh, one of the things I was, I was wondering about is, and this is as someone who, if you can't tell, I'm just, I'm painfully awkward and shy around people I've never met before. So you're doing great. The idea of going, oh, thank you <laugh>. Uh, is that something that you, you just never get comfortable doing and you just have to do it? Or is there any trick to it? And I'm asking this for a totally selfish reasons right now. I'd Speaker 3 00:36:17 Say it's ne it's never that you get comfortable doing it because people are unpredictable and you don't know if someone is going to say like, yeah, sure, I'll talk to you, or like, no, get away from me or Are you recording me right now? You just don't know what's gonna happen. But I think what does happen is you get more comfortable being uncomfortable. You realize that this is part of being alive and part of being a person in the world and it often yields some great audio and really enriches a story. And I'd encourage anyone, whatever the, the subject matter of your podcast is, is there an opportunity for you to go talk to people? Is there a question that you could ask random people and have that, weave that in as like a montage or as part of your story? Yeah, so I think prepare for it to be awkward, but know that if it's awkward, it's not because you're doing it wrong. It's awkward because people are awkward. We are awkward. The i the the very notion of going up to someone that you don't know and asking them a question with a microphone in their face is awkward. And if you just prepare yourself for that awkwardness and set the bar of this is going to be awkward and I'm still gonna do it <laugh> and I might get some great stuff out of it, then you don't have to get comfortable doing it. You just have to get comfortable being uncomfortable while you're doing it. Speaker 0 00:37:38 It was great to spend some time with Ben and Amery just talking shop. Over the past several years, they've built a show that manages to be relevant while also standing the test of time exploring the depths of the internet while weaving together coherent storylines is not easy work. So Ben and Amery, along with their team of producers at W B U R are the ultimate pros for pulling this off in the process. They've developed a deep and abiding friendship and rapport that shines through each time they get behind the microphone together. You can listen to full episodes of Endless Thread anywhere they have podcasts or online at W b r.org/podcast/endless thread. The show even has its own subreddit, which seems pretty appropriate. And now it's time for a podcasting tip where we ask our featured guests some handy tips and tricks to making podcasts. Speaker 2 00:38:35 This is Ben Brock Johnson from the podcast, endless Thread and my podcasting tip is even when you're not in the field, hit record before you get the person on the phone because often there's a lot of fun, silly, awkward moments that happen before you officially start the podcast that you can include in the official podcast. And sometimes there's just some nice genuine moments that that happen there that, that are useful and usable in creating the storytelling that you're, that you're doing. Speaker 0 00:39:14 Audience is a Casto original series. Our founder and executive producer is Craig Hewitt. Production assistance is provided by Jocelyn Devore, ISEL Brill at Marni Hills. Our website and logo design is courtesy of Friend Schwab Brill, our head of product here at Casto. All music featured in this episode comes from the Story Blocks Library. This episode is written, edited, narrated, and produced by me. I'm Stuart Barefoot. All previous episodes can be streamed anywhere you listen to podcast and online@audiencepodcast.fm. What if instead of being on the brink of disaster or on the cusp of a better world, next time on audience, I chat with Emma Vava Lucas and Zachary Caribelle from the podcast, what Could Go Right Speaker 14 00:40:04 And, and, and what we're doing is not saying that actually you're wrong. Things are working right, and there are people who believe that we're not saying that. We're just saying we need to pay attention to what's working and leave it to ourselves to figure out what the balance is between what isn't and what is. But that without the conviction that we're capable of solving problems, it's much more difficult to actually solve.

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