Podcast highlights people who believe in journalism
A Q&A with Mark Simon
What is your podcast about? Why?
My podcast, The Journalism Salute, is a journalism appreciation podcast. It’s meant to show
- That working in journalism is a great career path.
- There are so many different options someone could pursue.
- That journalists are NOT the enemy of the people.
I do 30-35 minute interviews with journalists about who they are and what they do. It’s their platform to talk about the backstory- the how and why behind what they do.
I was a journalism major in school. I’m 48 and I’ve been reading newspapers and following news coverage since I was 5. In 2020, I was tired of listening to Trump and other right-wing people call the media the enemy of the people.
My original way of making a difference was small donations to journalism non-profits. But I figured that a potentially more useful thing I could do would be to give good journalists a means of exposure, of telling their story and the story of the work they do.
And that goes in particular for journalists that come from demographics underrepresented in the industry. My guest list over the life of the podcast is more than 60% women, 45% non-white, and they come from nearly all 50 states, ranging in age from 18 to 80. This year, my guests have been more than half non-white.
Who is your target audience? Why?
- People who like and believe in good journalism and want to learn more about it.
- Students and aspiring journalists who are trying to figure out a career path.
I’ve got 130+ interviews with an incredibly diverse array of people.
At the time I’m answering this, my last 10 episodes include:
- A reporter covering Indigenous affairs
- Three reporters covering LGBTQ related topics
- A Black food critic who was a Pulitzer finalist
- One of the few female political cartoonists in the country
- An award-winning reporter who didn’t attend college
- Two incoming college students, one of whom is African Muslim
- A longtime reporter who sandwiched two reporting stints around a long career as a professor
- An interview I taped today was with a longtime photographer of Chinese/Malaysian heritage who covered the George Floyd protests and criminal trials.
When I say ‘there’s something for everyone,’ I can back it up.
How did it get started? Why?
I wrote a long answer detailing my origin story in 2020. The medium-length version of the story is that my entire professional career has been in sports media or media-adjacent areas, including nearly 16 years as a researcher and writer at ESPN. Telling stories and interviewing is in my wheelhouse.
So I wanted to show that I could tell stories that weren’t in sports. And I thought that potential journalist guests would be willing to embrace the goals of the podcast once it was explained to them.
I started with the one person who answered one of my donations with a handwritten note, Allison Augustyn, then of Investigate West, and the co-founder of the most interesting organization I’d read about, Eve Pearlman, of Spaceship Media.
They were both willing, so I taped with them. When I got done with the interview with Eve, she told me she appreciated being asked questions framed differently from those she typically got.
That was important. Since then, it’s been a goal to get that response in every interview I do.
What challenges has it offered?
The biggest challenge right now is finding the time to do it. I have a full-time job, a side job broadcasting sports for small colleges, and multiple hobbies and interests.
And I only know one way to do each thing I get involved in – I go full bore. So I put a LOT of time into potential guest selection and guest research. Guest selection is pretty challenging because I’m constantly looking for guests who bring something that hasn’t been brought to the table already. And I’m generally not looking for well-known people.
There’s also only so many hours in the day and I’m a one-man operation, so things like newsletters and promotion is hard.
Lastly, I’ve made $0 from doing this (and I’m not asking for money; I view this as a public service). I have no advertisers.
How do you see it evolving? In a couple of years what do you want it to be?
The next step for it is educational integration in some form.
I have done outreach asking professors and teachers if they have any interest in using my podcast in their classroom.
For example, could it serve as extra credit for a student to pick an episode, listen to it, and report on the most interesting things they learned?
I’m happy to help in any way I can. I know listener guides can be helpful- I’d provide them if there was legitimate interest. I will gladly speak to journalism classes about my experience and they can talk to me about my journalism jobs too, as I’ve had a pretty cool career (Besides ESPN, I’ve written a book about the history of the Yankees among other things).
What can we all learn from your experience?
As a listener, you’ll learn what I stated at the very beginning – it’s a great profession, there are so many possibilities for what you can do, and journalists are not the enemy.
If you’re a podcaster, you’ll learn the value of research and the value of asking a good question.
Where can people find your podcast?
You can find it on any podcast app (Apple, Spotify, Pod.Link), as well as at my website. One of the benefits of going to the website is that the episodes are categorized, so if you’re looking for a journalist that covers a specific subject, you can find it easily.
What else do people need to know about your podcast?
- The podcast is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Robert Cole, a legendary journalism professor at Trenton State College and The College of New Jersey. He was a mentor, and I think of him often as I’m planning and executing episodes.
- I like the idea of being a hidden gem kind of podcast, but I would also love more listeners because it would serve as further motivation to keep going. If you gave it a try you’d find it to be a worthwhile use of your time.
Mark Simon works in content creation at Sports Info Solutions, a company that invents stats and tools to help pro teams evaluate players and game strategies. He writes, edits, creates podcasts, creates social media content and serves as a mentor. He has been a lead researcher for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and a regular contributor, ESPN.com. In addition, he was a play-by-play broadcaster for more than 25 years. He’s author of the 2016 book The Yankees Index: Every Number Tells a Story.