Astra Audio: A Kansas News Audio Time Capsule for 2021



Audio Astra reviews recent audio reports on Kansas news, including podcasts and radio reports. Eric Thomas heads the Kansas Scholastic Press Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

People often ask me for my podcast recommendations because I can’t stand quoting podcasts in conversations. The number of podcasts I hear can make a particular recommendation difficult. Matching a podcast to the taste of the person requesting it (call me a podcast sommelier) can also complicate matters.

However, the temporary nature of most podcasts – that they are offered to be deleted almost instantly – can make it difficult to remember specific episodes. There isn’t a stack of magazines to browse or a library to flip through.

So, not to forget the plots of 2021, here are the biggest of the year. I’m not necessarily highlighting the best individual episodes, but rather the core issues of the year in Kansas, as told through podcasts.


Lee Norman, formerly of KHDE, and Steven Stites, chief medical officer of KU Medical System, continued to be the voices of the Kansas pandemic – even more than Governor Laura Kelly. Through their well-deserved Intimidating Chairs and as sources for much of the region’s pandemic reporting, they have both educated the public on their expertise.

Stites cited the number of cases, counted open beds, and tracked trends, all while researching new rhetorical phrases to express the seriousness and urgency of each week. Last week, he said that hospitals were “full, full, full” and “I’m just going to warn everyone: things are on fire. “His KU Med briefings were popular videos but also published under the title”Open mics with Dr. Stites. “

Norman’s role and ultimate demise as director of KHDE was one of the state’s biggest stories to end the year, prompting interviews with the Kansas reflector and Kansas Press Service. Before this date, his candid interview with Tim Carpenter gave a window into his decisions, his stress and his frustrations.


Twelve months ago, almost all Kansan were waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine. The appetite seemed insatiable as we all wanted to resume our lives safely. We fought for vaccine appointments, flooding apps and websites with our frantic attempts to be the first or, at least, not the last.

A year later, statistics show that less than 60% of Kansans have been fully vaccinated. Radio reports and podcasts captured the political stance of the Conservatives: Oppose mandates, rally against masks and weakly approve the vaccine. Their opposition to almost all public health measures irritated some public health officials and forced others to quit their jobs.

Of course, the division climate also threatens to define 2022 as catastrophic as the omicron variant becomes dominant. Who knows how many mutations we could have avoided with a more robust vaccination? How many future variations could also be avoided?


Kansas’ podcasts and audio journalists provided perhaps the most comprehensive review of education issues in 2021, of any topic. This is in part thanks to Suzanne Perez of the Kansas News Service. His excellent reporting described the myriad controversies in Kansas schools as they appeared: finance higher education in the event of a pandemic, separate critical theory of race from classroom lessons in dealing with race, the learning gap created by virtual schooling for kindergarten children and the summer school challenges.

Other podcasts have helped us understand how political wars that previously flirted with the day-to-day functioning of our schools are now blended with academic life. Kansas City today and others followed library censorship efforts. the “KSPrincipals, listen! »Podcast provided an overview of how administrators are handling the 2021 school days. And “All things considered” was released Jodie Fortino’s story on how local schools reconsider Native American mascots.


While Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment took place in the fall of 2020, her presence on the United States Supreme Court has made 2021 the year of action and reaction in the abortion debate. legal.

In 2021, “My Fellow Kansans” reissued an episode on the “The summer of mercyWhich was one of the most memorable plays of the year. There are few audio stories that have helped me better understand the extremes that still define the abortion debate.

However, a recent episode of “The American Life” told the most personal and complex take on abortion I have heard through a podcast. Adapted from a story in “The experience,” the story describes a woman who performs ultrasounds on new mothers and traces her tortuous journey through pregnancy and loss. The most valuable political lesson here? Most Americans feel like the young mother at the end of the story. Her view – like that of most Americans – is that neither absolute, whether pro-life or pro-choice, is infallibly correct for every pregnancy.

KCUR’s ‘Kansas City Today’ explains how the Kansas abortion debate takes shape. And “Up to date” describes how Missouri is considering a bill that would emulate Texas’ SB8, which is currently in dispute.


Perhaps the second biggest cost of the pandemic – besides all the direct suffering it has created through death and disease – is how it has distracted us from climate change. Kansas podcasts and audio news coverage provided specific reporting on efforts that may sadly seem weak to future generations.

David Condos reported on the Oggala aquifer, which threatens to dry up rather than feed the crops of western Kansas for another generation. Every time I learn more about this looming water crisis in Kansas, I feel more fear for the state’s economy.

Likewise, I feel the same fear of other specific regional climate calamities which, in the absence of a pandemic, would have defined 2021: Forest fires, urban heat and our landfill crisis.

A note of hope (we need it!) Came from Brian Grimmett’s report on how believers incorporated sustainable lifestyles into their religious life.


The state has stopped to cry, celebrate and tells the story of Bob Dole, Presidential Candidate, Senator and Vice-Presidential Candidate who died at the age of 98 on December 5. His conservative influence and political success created many institutions in the state, including the KU Dole Institute. The institute has extensively documented its heritage through audio with a series of 73 episodes interviewing his contemporaries, including Walter Mondale, George McGovern and Trent Lott. After his death this year, local podcasts like “Kansas City Today” explained the importance of Dole.

IN ALL . . .

The links above create a complicated playlist that describes 2021 as a year of division after 2020 being recognized as a year of isolation. The two-year pandemic calls on us to meet in the middle to solve our biggest problems – problems that seem to be reinforced by our polarization and physical distance.

What did we miss? E-mail [email protected] to tell us about a Kansas-based audio program that would be of interest to Audio Astra players.



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