Preparing to Podcast Safely

The common format of a podcast is the main host having a conversation with a person who has experience and knowledge  on a certain topic or theme. But increasingly, podcasting is being used to tell stories. 

Storytellers who  are considering podcasting as a way to tell their stories will have to consider some things in order to do it more safely. Generally, many podcasters use their real names and only involve others who do the same. Podcasts being all audio provides a sense level of non-identifiability because it is faceless. 

However, depending on how sensitive the storyteller´stheme is as a storyteller, they you might want to consider ways in which to control their identifiability as they you podcast. Theirs and the people they you want to involved in it. 

It is important for the storyteller to imagine the impact of their podcasts will be on themselves and their guests, and to try to mitigate negative consequences. These negative consequences could be:

  • harassment of the storyteller or their guests from people who do not share their opinion
  • re-traumatising the interviewee 
  • exposing the identity survivor of a human rights violation or sexual abuse and causing them harm
  • re-traumatising listeners 

If the theme of a podcast is too sensitive, for example on issues of equal access to justice or the weaknesses of Sharia legal systems, the storyteller might want to consider having a different format for their podcast. In recent years, some podcast producers have used fictionalised content to engage more serious topics, or to share stories. Instead of using the more standard conversation format, they instead write scripts for audio dramas. These range from short stories (each episode is a short story) to longer fictional stories (each episode is a chapter). 

Whether or not the storyteller will use the more standard podcast format, or do a fictional podcast, they should still consider the following questions before they start podcasting:

  • What is the podcast about? Are there going to be themes in it that will put the storyteller or the guests at risk?
  • Who will be the guests on the podcasts? Are they agreeable to be identifiable? If they prefer to use a pseudonym, you as the one creating the podcast will have to be mindful of not slipping up and using your guest’s real name. If your guest prefers to be anonymous, it is common to still have some kind of reference because it is natural to want to call the person by name. So a generic pseudonym like ¨friend¨, ¨Person A¨ or a generic name in your culturecould help.
  • What is already available on the internet about the storyteller? Is there information about the storyteller that can be used to harass them or those close to them? The storyteller would need to do this with people who will be guests in their podcasts as well. 

It is also recommended that a storyteller gets a separate email address (not their personal or their work email addresses) for their podcasting use. They can use a free and secure service like Protonmail  or TutaNota  for this. This will protect them from possible spamming of their personal accounts as well as help protect their identities on the internet. 

Here's an example of a story that can be seen as very controversial, about a lesbian in a straight marriage, podcast produced by Juana Jaafar.

Juana Jaafar. 2016. “On being lesbian in a straight marriage”. JuanaJaafar.net, 21 July.  http://www.juanajaafar.net/2016/07/on-being-lesbian-in-a-straight-marriage/