Marc Johnson–Many Things Considered
“Looking to politics past to make sense of politics present”
In the words of Marc Johnson, he has had “a checkered career” helping produce a daily public affairs TV program in Boise, Idaho, working as press secretary and Chief of Staff to Cecil D. Andrus (Governor of Idaho from 1971 to 1977, and 1987 to 1995) and working at Gallatin Public Affairs until his retirement in 2013 when he and his wife relocated to Oregon.
“Seize opportunities when they come along and make the most of them,” Johnson advises.
Connecting political history to today’s political stories
He started producing his podcast Many Things Considered in October of 2016, hoping to launch it before the presidential election. The program takes current political issues and looks for parallels and lessons from historical events. Johnson’s old firm hosts the podcast on their website.
Ten episodes in, Johnson has already has learned a couple vital lessons in the first few months of producing the series.
- Initial planning before launching is important. A lot of prep is required to market podcasts correctly, he says. “I originally approached it with the thought that finding the right platform would be my major problem.”
- Rollout and marketing are time-consuming. “I overestimated the problem of producing and underestimated the problem of marketing.”
Even though he has his original list of 40–50 subjects he thinks would be interesting, he also wants to be timely and topical.
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His next episode will be driven by the current news agenda, and will examine the government leaks emanating from the Trump White House, connecting it to the story of the Pentagon Papers during Nixon’s presidency.
“If Trump slows down a little bit, I might get to some of the things which are more topical,” Johnson laughs.
Johnson finds that organizing the narrative storyline is the most time consuming part of producing his podcast. To find the various experts he interviews on his shows, he looks at news outlets for people who have a point of view on the topic. From there, he sends out a pitch email asking if the person would consent to a short interview.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised that you can reach out to people in that way and get a response,” he says.
If he doesn’t receive a response, he sometimes follows up with a phone call, though getting prominent people for an interview has not really been a problem. He quoted one of his past professors by saying:
“There’s never any penalty for making that extra phone call.”
One area that Johnson evaluates in each podcast is how much of his voice should be put into an episode. “I want to be fair. I want to provide a sense that there are other perspectives I might not be providing,” he says.
Johnson has been publishing content for the podcast every two weeks and hopes to grow this audience, building off the back of his successful blog, also known as Many Things Considered. He has two other projects — a book that’s currently with his publisher, and another he just received a grant to write — to keep him busy when he’s not working on his podcast.
These commitments may result in change to his publishing schedule later in the year, but Johnson seems quite relaxed about this.
“I want to get to the point that if I have to take a break [from the podcast], I can come back to engage my audience,” he says.
Johnson’s wife is an avid podcast fan, he told us, but he nonetheless recommended five particular shows to us: