The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone’s editors or publishers.
Much of what we do in life comes down to telling stories. It is at the heart of our families, our friendships and our relationships. It transcends cultures and travels thousands of miles across borders and oceans. Whether it’s our own stories or those passed down from generation to generation, the stories we tell, hear and share help define who we are.
If you’re lucky, you might find a way to incorporate storytelling into your work – as a journalist, writer, musician, director, or even a marketer. But one of the most innovative and growing mediums that is allowing people to experience storytelling in a more visceral way than ever before is podcasting.
Podcasting has a unique impact because it can capture the best of many worlds. You can create a fictional story, immerse someone in a tropical location, recall your funniest anecdotes, interview people when they’re most open – all without the restrictions, rules, and editing of other creative mediums. It’s also the perfect setting to talk shamelessly about you and your identity. It’s the one-on-one connection that lets listeners feel like they really know their host on a deeper level. It’s also a great place to dive into your guilty pleasures (hello, true crime) and immerse yourself in an aural experience.
My own journey into the podcasting space isn’t exactly conventional, but it was this journey that gave me my voice. I was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Australia and now have settled in New York. I found my calling in podcasting after 10 years in radio, taking not only the technical skills with me, but also the lessons and stories of being a gay immigrant woman growing up in a new country. Podcasting has become my medium of choice because of the power it has to build an audience of people who tune in weekly to hear you for who you are.
speak what you know
The best way to create rich, meaningful stories, regardless of medium, is to write (or speak) what you know. It’s a phrase that’s often thrown around between writers and creatives, sometimes skeptically, but it’s a mantra that holds true. When trying to find or reinvent yourself as a creative storyteller, neglecting your roots and the culture that made you is a wasted opportunity. For the same reason that we need diversity in newsrooms and at writers’ tables, culture defines our storytelling perspectives. It allows us to tell stories no one else can and helps audiences find a universality in them.
Some of the most successful movies and TV shows of recent years have given us insight into very different lives and cultures. Actor Rami Malek perhaps said it best in his 2019 Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech for Bohemian Rhapsody. Paying homage to the late Freddie Mercury, he said in his speech: “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant who lived his life unashamedly himself. And the fact that I celebrate him and this story with you tonight is proof that we yearn for stories like this. He added: “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt, I am a first generation American and part of my story is being written right now.”
Identity creates storytellers
In podcasting, it can take a bit of introspection to figure out your niche, but people often find it because they discover a whole community of people who may be just like them. Marginalized groups or underserved communities can find immense value in hearing from those who are confident and unapologetic in their cultural identity. This is exactly why it is so important to encourage a public narrative of these conversations. The truth is that different cultures bring different stories. And, in my experience, the wealthiest often come from a place that storytellers once considered mundane or insignificant.
In a world where independent media must fight for survival to avoid the impersonal studio system, we can celebrate mediums like podcasting that offer audio storytellers a platform to stay true to the culture that created them. .