Detroit-based story maker Zak Rosen chats with the JN about his success with podcasts and how that led him to create his own with his wife.
Photos courtesy of Zak Rosen
1. How did you get into podcasts?
I came in through the public radio window. When I started producing radio stories for WDET, Detroit Public Radio, in 2006, podcasts were definitely around, but nowhere near the cultural force they are today. It wasn’t until the last few years that audio producers could actually make a living as podcasters.
My shift from radio to podcasts was gradual and at a certain point, I noticed I was getting more work from podcasts than from traditional public radio.
2. You recently created the podcast, “Pregnant Pause with Zak and Shira”. What drew you to create and host your own podcast?
I had a lot of anxiety about whether or not I wanted to be a parent. As a story-maker, I couldn’t deny how compelled I was by the conceit of a show that set out to answer the question, “should we, or shouldn’t we?” And so, essentially, I used the podcast as a mechanism to move through these big questions with my wife and a gaggle of other wise people I look up to:
“How can I bring a baby into a world with climate catastrophe as a possible future?”
“I love my wife — how is having a kid going to tax that relationship?”
“Are people who chose not to have kids content with their decision?”
3. What does your job entail as Director of Podcasts at Graham Media Group?
I conceive of and/or edit, produce, sound-design, help on or lend an ear to a plethora of podcasts coming out of GMG newsrooms around the country.
4. Where do you generally get inspiration for your stories?
Conversations with friends, books and movies, day dreams…
5. What is some advice you like to give to aspiring podcasters?
Before you commit to making a bunch of episodes, figure out how much energy it takes to make one or two. If you’re burnt-out after that initial piloting phase, consider stopping! If you’re in love with the process, though, have at it!
6. You did a story called “Can I Have This Dance?” which was featured on KCRW’s UnFictional, talking about the famous Joe Cornell dance classes for Jewish middle-schoolers. What inspired you to dig into that topic specifically?
I must have been talking to some friends about how incredibly awkward we were at that age and how throwing us into a room to slow-dance with people we didn’t know and/or feared was such a hilarious, interesting gambit.
Zak Rosen is a Detroit-based story maker. With his wife, he created and hosts the podcast, “Pregnant Pause with Zak and Shira,” which chronicles their decision to bring a child into this strange world of ours. Zak is currently the Director of Podcasts at Graham Media Group and the producer/editor of “How to Survive the End of the World.” His radio features have been heard on NPR, CBC, BBC, PRI, APM, Deutsche Welle and Radio Helsinki. He was a staff producer on NPR/PRX’s “State of the Re:Union” and before that, a co-founding producer of WDET’s “Detroit Today.” He facilitates workshops and consults with museums, high schools, universities, and community organizations on various story-based projects. He’s also a coach at the Detroit Writing Room and counselor at Radio Campfire, a live listening event series.
Meet Zak at the Detroit Writing Room Speakers Series on Jan. 16
Schmoozing with Elliot Darvick