From Project Catapult: ‘¿Qué Pasa, Midwest?’

This is part of a series that looks at the shows in Project Catapult’s first cohort.

One of the defining features of ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest?, a podcast from WNIN and PRX, is that listeners won’t just hear the show in English — they’ll hear it in Spanish, too.

“I think the heart of the show is community alliance,” said Paola Marizan, host and producer of ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? “We are in the Midwest — there’s not a lot of people here producing Latino or Spanish programs, so having an on-demand, bilingual podcast about the people you identify with, I think that’s really important. It helps listeners grow, it helps the community grow.”

Producer Mareea Thomas echoed this sentiment, saying it’s always nice to be able to see people who sound and speak like you in the media.

“When I was in college, the international students, they would hear our international show and they’d get so excited, like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a song in my language,’ and their faces lit up,” Thomas said. “I think that this is what ¿Que Pasa, Midwest? can do for Spanish speaking people here in the Midwest.”

Thomas emphasized that she isn’t Latina, herself, but when Marizan approached her and asked her to work on the show, she knew it was the right move for her.

“I’m always interested in learning about different cultures, and then I wanted to take it a step further and not just learn about it or admire it from afar, but actually delve into something and do something about an issue that I see,” Thomas said.

As for Marizan, she said it was natural for her to decide to make the show bilingual. “It’s just how we talk, how we refer to each other, how we talk to our sisters and things like that. We decided it was OK to be adventurous, energetic and fun and try new things,” she said.

Both Marizan and Thomas said they’re focusing on developing content to cater to their audience right now, a lesson they took away from Project Catapult, and that they’re unafraid to develop and change as ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? continues to grow.

Mareea Thomas, left, and Paola Marizan are producers for ¿Que Pasa, Midwest?, a bilingual podcast that was part of PRX’s first Project Catapult cohort.

“I think one of the most important things that happened when we were in Boston at PRX’s Podcast Garage was meeting other people who were in different stages of developing a podcast,” Thomas said. “We met really seasoned people, like Lauren and Eric from Inflection Point, who have multiple seasons under their belts and lots of episodes. And still they’re questioning. And seeing that, no matter what, you’re always going to keep growing and changing, and you don’t have to have it all figured out.”

Both producers are optimistic about the future of their show and about bilingual podcasting, in general. Marizan stressed that, although the podcast is in its infancy now, she and Thomas have big plans for it in the future.

“Once we expand and the show has more time on air and people get to know it better, we’re going to engage in more community events. Working with the community, being part of translating some material into Spanish,” Marizan said. “I think ¿Que Pasa, Midwest? will be just the start of what bilingual podcasting can be.”

Marizan and Thomas encourage anyone with a story idea for ¿Que Pasa, Midwest? to send them a pitch at qpm@wnin.org, or to reach out on Facebook or Twitter.