Podcasting a friendship

Jennifer & Lizzie

Jennifer Macey was about to complete her very first lecture—a podcasting class for third year students—when Lizzie Jack's hand shot in the air. Lecture theatres are big rooms and it’s not always easy to get feedback from a distance. So when an unknown student asks one question (if she could ask some follow up questions) it was, in Jennifer’s words, “like a gift”. 

“I was really nervous because it was my first time lecturing. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing or teaching the right thing or if it was even getting through,” Jennifer (a radio and podcast producer and current PhD candidate at UOW) says of the class. “So as the classic nerd that I am, I over-prepared, rewriting the course outline and replacing heaps of readings with podcasts.”

“One of the things we wanted to do in class was to have people come and pitch stories and talk to me as if I were an editor. In the first lecture, Lizzie stopped me to pitch her story, and I was so excited because it felt so collaborative.” 

Podcasting was a very new subject, it had only been at UOW for a few years,” recalls Lizzie (a Bachelor of Journalism graduate) of the time. “There were only about 20 people in the class. [Jennifer] comes bouncing in with all this energy, carrying a thousand things. And because the class was small, we had a weekly workshop for 20 people in this big, fun, collaborative space.” 

Listen to the full interview with Lizzie and Jennifer

Podcasting had only just recently been made a subject within Journalism at UOW, and so the course was largely collaborative and open to different forms of exploration. Jennifer had replaced the regular ‘readings’ of a tutorial with ‘listenings’, incorporating a wide bank of resources from the recent podcast boom that had swept the world of investigative storytelling. And in the class, Lizzie, who had barely listened to a single podcast prior, was hooked. “Podcasting is such an evolving medium,” says Jennifer. “The mechanics of the storytelling are pretty much the same, but it’s always changing, and that makes it exciting to teach.” 

As the subject reached its conclusion, Lizzie recalled a note from Jennifer for all students to reach out if they needed help with anything. Jennifer’s passion for podcasts led Liz to reach out and ask for some advice. Coincidentally, Jennifer was looking for an intern to help her with her upcoming projects, and so Lizzie became her intern for the next semester—and a paid assistant shortly after that. 

This working relationship benefited both women. Lizzie gained valuable experience helping produce deftly crafted podcast projects like How to Make a Whistleblower (“like living my true crime fantasy”) and Follow the Money (“learning to cut 30 interviews into three episodes like puzzle pieces”). Jennifer also advised Lizzie on a major podcast project for another subject, and offered valuable industry tips and connections. 

“Those crafted documentary-style podcasts are really labor intensive. And it was so great for me to be able to work with somebody else who just gets it,” says Jennifer. “You’ve got to have a really incisive editor brain. (Lizzie) is able to just hone in on what’s important and what flows. That’s really important to have around.”

“There was a point where we just became friends,” adds Lizzie. “Most of the time when you’re working in podcasts, you can’t really talk because you’re always listening to stuff. But we’d find time to press pause, have a chat, eat chocolate and drink coffee. There was an ease to that friendship where it just didn’t feel like work.” 

Today, Jennifer is a PhD Candidate in the field of Geography while continuing to teach and produce her own audio work. Her recent podcast documentary  ‘Kangaroo Cuddles’ (about the experiences of mothers who go through premature birth) recently won Gold in Health and Bronze in Social Issues of the New York radio festival, what Lizzie describes as ‘The Cannes of radio broadcasting awards.’ A forthcoming project of hers will document the history and future of Port Kembla, a major import zone of the region.  As students return to UOW in 2022, they will find her in a brand new building featuring several state-of-the-art podcasting suites.

This is a black and white photo of two women sitting at a table. Both woman are smiling at the camera if their arms folded on the table. There is a pair of headphones on the bottom right hand corner of the table.

Left to right: Jennifer and Lizzie

Lizzie continues to work at UOW and the ABC while pursuing an ambitious roster of podcast projects on the side. 

Though both women are keen to avoid cliches, they acknowledge their friendship as an example of the role that teachers and students can play in their respective university experience—so long as you raise your hand to ask. 

"You’re just this quiet achiever in terms of how much you do and all the creative aspects of your life, [playing] sport and in your band and creative pieces,” says Jennifer to Lizzie. “Often journalism can be quite competitive, and to actually be able to work with someone collaboratively, which I've been able to do with you, is amazing.” 

Lizzie often wonders what would have happened had Jennifer not decided to teach that third year podcasting class.

“I don’t think I would have liked [podcasting] as much had I not had (Jennifer) as a teacher,” she muses. 

“I just feel I’m really lucky to have met a cool lecturer who cartwheeled into the room one day and believed in me enough to hire me as an intern...I feel very lucky to have met someone that can be that impactful. I know Jennifer hates the word because she thinks it describes the sound it makes when a car hits a wall.” 

“But that’s the word,” Lizzie adds, “impactful.” 


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