How long have you had your podcast?
June 15, 2017 (the date of release of first episode).
What inspired you to become a podcast?
[The following answer is written solely by Jim – the creator / producer of the show]
Originally, the show began with one host: Me. It was my idea. But, it was sparked by a few different things. I have always been interested in historical trivia, and strange but interesting facts from history.
I happen to live in Ohio, and sometime in the year 2016, I happened to stumble across a couple of stories from Ohio history, that had completely forgotten but utterly fascinating.
At the time, my first thought was these stories could be a book! Or, actually, two books, since the stories had no relationship to each other. However, since I know nothing about writing or publishing books, I put that idea on the back burner.
In January 2017, I began listening to podcasts, as a way to avoid listening to TV or radio news, in the depressing aftermath of the presidential election. And, at some point, the bright idea hit me, that I could start a podcast, to tell lost-but-interesting stories from history, such as the ones I had discovered, but also any other trivia, which I randomly decided to talk about.
I thought it might even be successful, since I heard other podcasts, that featured obscure history like “Futility Closet” and “True Crime Historian”, for example
What kinds of topics do you talk about on your podcast?
Noteworthy yet obscure incidents and people from long-ago. Usually from the 19th century, but also, occasionally, stories from the early to mid-20th century. We have only had one story that took place later than 1940 – although that particular story revolved around the issue of whether it really took place, at all.
The structure of the individual episodes has evolved, but our basic format has has been essentially the same, since December 2017, when Kit Caren joined the show. Basically, each episode has one main featured story, followed by our “Police Blotter & Court News” segment, in which a guest narrator reads a newspaper column of local arrests and punishment, from a random date, a century or more ago.
What inspired the name of your podcast?
First and foremost, a book, by the late Jack Finney, titled “Forgotten News”. It was published in 1981. It is mainly the story of a murder, and subsequent trial, of a woman named Emma Cunningham in New York City in 1852, but the book is also packed with trivia and curious news items, from the mid to late 19th century.
In his book, Mr. Finney convincingly argues that 19th century newspapers can be trusted, at least as far as telling the facts of local news, especially crime news. This is completely contrary to what I was told by some of my history professors in college. It led me to digging into my own local newspaper for old-timey stories that I thought listeners might be interested in hearing.
I was also inspired by the book “Low Life” by Luc Sante, from 1991, which tells stories of everyday life among the poor, the working class, and the criminal element, in New York City, in the mid to late 19th century. Also, the book “Scoundrels in Law” by Cait Blanchard, which is the history of the ultra-crooked law firm of Howe & Hummel, which operated in New York in the late 1870’s through 1890’s.
Which has been your favorite episode to record so far?
Kit’s favorite is “McGurk’s Suicide Saloon” – the story of an 1890’s dive bar, which somehow became a favored destination for sad young women in NYC, to take their own lives.
For me (Jim), it is a tie between “McGurk’s” and “Fact Meets Fiction” – the story of a guy named Steve Brodie, who jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge into the river below, in 1886, on a bet, and survived. Or maybe he didn’t jump at all. He said he did. The episode also includes a very sweet short story (fiction) of a naïve young couple, who decide, on a whim, that they would like to visit McGurk’s.
Many podcasters contributed their voices to these two episodes. (A few even sang! – on the McGurk’s episode).
What is the most challenging part about podcasting in the genre you’ve chosen?
The occasional bad reviews on iTunes can be depressing. Particularly, if they are mean-spirited, or inaccurate, and also, because we make no money from this.
Trying to get episodes out on a regular basis is very difficult, because of the time it takes to research, write scripts, record and edit. Our basic goal is once every two weeks.
We try to enhance our stories by having any quotes recorded by guest voices. A lot of people really like this. Some people compare it to Old Time Radio — even though, for the most part, we simply tell narrative stories.
Sometimes its hard to get volunteers on short notice. Especially males; no idea why that is. We always try to find new voices, but often we end up needing to ask people who have already done voices on multiple occasions, and I really hate imposing on their kindness.
Writing the show notes for each episode takes a long time, because they tend to be very detailed.
Do you have any funny stories from podcasting?
Somebody recently told us that he (she?) was regular listeners to the show, until they heard an episode where we happened to say some nice things about Snopes and NPR. And, because of that, would never listen again.
Our raw audio, with a jillion flubs, and Kit’s exasperation over them, can be pretty funny.
Do you sell merch or have any other links you’d like to include?
You can buy t-shirts and other items on the TeePublic website.
Is there anyone you’d like to promote?
Obviously, we want to recommend The Short Stories of Augie Peterson.
I will also suggest the Whispered True Stories podcast, which is hosted by Kit Caren.
Also, fans of historical trivia, old-timey true crime, and buried facts, you might enjoy the podcasts “Futility Closet”, “True Crime Historian”, “History Chicks”, “Professor Buzzkill”, “Southern Mysteries”, “Bowery Boys”, “The Story Behind”, “Midnight Writer News”, and “Black Op Radio”, to name only a few that are worth your time to listen to.
Where can we find you on social media?
Jim: ForgottenNewsPodcast@gmail.com / @NewsForgotten (Twitter).
Thanks so much to Jim and Kit for taking the time to answer these questions, be sure to follow them and send them some love!
P.S. be sure to stay tuned for Friday’s interview where we chat with Kit Caren about her podcast, Whispered True Stories; an ASMR venture into true crime.