Issue 221,  published August 6, 2019

In Context: “Bundyville: The Remnant”

So, I really liked Bundyville, the Oregon-based journalist Leah Sottile’s audio documentary on anti-government extremism in the American West that released its second season last month, and I highly encourage you to check the podcast out.

What I also liked: the arrangement behind the production, which I thought was pretty interesting to parse through. A co-production between Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), Bundyville originally started out as a written feature to be published on the Longreads website that ultimately evolved into a bigger project, complete with an accompanying audio series that was robust enough to stand on its own.

“Early on in the reporting, I went to my editor at Longreads, Mike Dang, and said, ‘I think we have enough for a series,’ and he said, ‘Sounds great to me — also, we’re also interested in doing a podcast, do you know anything about that?’” explained Sottile, when we jumped on the phone last month. “I said, ‘No, not really, but I do know people at OPB.”

That inquiry set the stage for what eventually became the co-production partnership. In terms of the responsibility split over the podcast, Longreads handles financing — paying Sottile, along with producers Robert Carver and Peter Frick-Wright, both of 30 Minutes West Production — while OPB provided the services of its news content manager, Ryan Haas, who served as the editor on the show. The first season, which principally focused on the 2016 standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and its resulting trial, rolled out in its entirety last May, and its follow-up season, which further traces its influences and effects, deployed the same binge-drop approach last month.

There doesn’t seem to be advertising on the podcast just yet, but the show essentially functions as a piece of brand marketing for Longreads and OPB, while its substance additionally falls into the latter’s public radio purview.

“It’s definitely useful for us, and honestly, I hope more public radio stations look at the partnership we’ve done here,” Haas told me. “Oftentimes, public radio newsrooms don’t have big budgets nor a lot of extra bodies to throw at a project like this, and so it’s nice to have a situation where there’s a partner that can bring their own resources and skills to the table, and we can all benefit from that.”

Cool. Anyway, I whipped up a more editorial-oriented Q&A with Sottile and Haas for Vulture, and I’m spinning out a related career spotlight with Haas for the next section. As you can probably tell by now, I’m plugging this show hard.