Friday, March 28, 2014

The Salt City Throwdown Podcast

Posted By on March 28, 2014, 7:00 PM

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As you've read in one of our most recent issues of City Weekly, Capitol Hill and the politics in this city and state that surround it are a clusterfuck. --- There are so many pointless bills going in and getting a stamp of approval before they hit the floor, while others can't even get a third of the representatives to go in and listen. And while some radio and television programs cover it as part of their news, there aren't a lot of media sources focused on local politics from both sides as their primary format.

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Enter the Salt City Throwdown podcast, a two man show dissecting and analyzing everything they can in a tone even the most oblivious-to-politics listener can understand. The show's hosts look at all the local sources they can, shine some light on the insanity outside Utah, and even interview guests involved with and covering politics to give you the best possible information you could need to help be informed and make decisions. Today we chat with both hosts about starting up the podcast and the content, as well as thoughts on podcasting in general. (All pictures courtesy of the Salt City Throwdown.)

Adam "The Fish Guy" Andrews & Shon "Smitty" Harris
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SaltCityThrowdown.com

Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Adam: I am 35, a new father and for many years worked in pet care (That’s where the Fish Guy comes from). Now, I have switched to home medical equipment and switched from fish tanks to oxygen tanks.

Shon: I am 32, and not a father. But I am a full time student at the University of Utah and an IT Guy. The name "Smitty" is a nickname I picked up when I got into IT Security (read; Hanging out with Hackers) and wanted a Pseudonym. I didn't want a cool screen name, I wanted an alter-ego so I chose the name "Smith Kennedy" and it kind of stuck, and got to the point where everyone just calls me Smitty. I live downtown with my wife and my two dachshunds.

Gavin: How did each of you take an interest in local politics and government?


Shon: I have been following politics in Idaho and Utah for a long time. The politics of the Western United States fascinates me because it is so different than anywhere else you go. The culture, prevailing wisdom and the party dynamics are so interesting, and the party infighting is hilarious to watch as well.

Adam: I didn't really think much about politics until I moved to Utah more than 10 years ago. I was always into radio shows, and while working at a job down in Orem, I ended up listening to a lot of the right-leaning talk shows, (Hannity, Beck, etc.) because that's what the boss would play on the radio. After I left that job, I still liked hearing about politics in the talk format. I started listening all day. It wasn't until later that I really started following it outside of radio and news shows.

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Gavin: Have either of you actively been a part of the system, or are you more observant about what's happening?

Adam: I have always seen myself as more of an observer, or "armchair commentator." When something comes up, I'll speak my mind about it, or tell others about it, but collecting signatures for the GRAMA bill a few years ago is the most I've actively participated.

Shon: I am actively involved. I'm a Salt Lake County and Utah State Delegate for the Utah Democratic Party, I have volunteered on campaigns and in every election. Some day when I am done with school, I plan on running for office.

Gavin: When did the two of you first meet each other and become friends?

Adam: Adam: We pretty much "met" through hearing each others texts and calls on KSL's Nightside Project. After a while, I got into social media, and we'd have conversations through Facebook and Twitter.

Shon: Yeah, we met up at some live remotes for the Nightside Project and we found we clicked in person and the friendship was born.

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Gavin: Prior to the show, what kind of conversations did you used to have over politics?

Adam: Mostly tweets back and forth, but I'd say 90% was on news and politics. I like to crack jokes about stories, because it can take something that has me upset or "wound up," and get me to take a step back and laugh for a moment. Shon and I had that in common, so if I thought of a joke about Sen. Hatch, or GRAMA laws, or ALEC; I knew that he'd at least know about the story enough to get the joke.

Shon: We have been active participants in the #utpol community, and usually it was me getting someone wound up, and then we would discuss different topics that hit there, or stories that I would retweet or put on Facebook, after that it was game on.

Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up your own podcast, and why call it the Throwdown?

Shon: I had been throwing the idea of a podcast together for a while. I am a huge fan of Pirate Media, Adam Carolla and others who have paved the way to making it a viable vehicle to getting out there. In addition to politics, I had thought about putting together a sports podcast, but the pop culture politics, as we call it, just seemed to appeal more to me.

Adam: Shon approached me almost a year before the show started with the idea. (He is actually the person that introduced me to podcasts, which is now 95% of what I listen to though the day.) Shon leans to the liberal side on a lot of issues, but on some he does lean more conservative; and I (at the time) was the opposite. We had found through all the time going back and forth online about politics, is that even though we leaned in different directions, we could agree on what the core of the problem was on an issue, and that we both had reasonable arguments for the way it should be solved.

Shon: The original working title for the show was We're Both Right. As we got closer to launching the show, we thought "throwdown" expressed the idea of the show: to take a topic, throw it in the middle of the table, hash it out, and decide where we really stood on it and why.

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Gavin: What was it like getting all the equipment together and kind of setting up your own studio space?

Adam: Shon did pretty much all of the work on those issues. He is far more savvy than I when it comes to the tech side of things...

Shon: It was pretty easy actually. The hardest part was the acquisition of the equipment. The recording software (Adobe Audition) is part of a larger package that I use for school stuff, but the Board, the Mics and learning how it all interconnected was the fun part.

Gavin: What were the first few episodes like when you started recording and what did you think of the flow of the show?


Shon: The first few episodes were shit. I won't lie. Lots of echo, feedback and just bad quality. Finding the space we use to record in now is actually a podcast studio and a bit higher quality than we had starting out. But the format we use hasn't really changed.

Adam: The very first episode we recorded together had a horrible echo and sounded awful, and we never aired it. The next one we did was in my neighbor's office, which still had some issues with sound quality, but it was useable. Finding a good place to record was an issue early on. As for the flow of the show, it just kind of developed as the show went on. Like anything, the more you do something, the better you get at it.

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Gavin: You launched the show in September 2013, what was the early reaction like from listeners?


Shon: I was surprised we had them. I mean we promoted the show via social media, but as word got out, people started to figure out who we were. I have always approached the show as if nobody but myself was listening. We have had certain episodes, like the episode we did with Mark Shurtleff (former Utah Attorney General) that took off. Others we fluctuate a bit on the downloads and the listeners. It's weird when people figure out who I am say "love your podcast!"

Adam: With the early episodes, our biggest concern was getting the word out about it. Social Media played a huge role in that. Most of the feedback I got was just from people who were letting me know that they had listened. It has been mostly positive, though.

Gavin: How do you go about deciding the content you're going to discuss for each episode?

Adam: We bounce ideas back and forth, but mostly we use shared documents on Google Drive as a place to create a list of stories we want to talk about. Some stories are no-brainers, while others might get cut at the last minute. Picking the stories is easy; figuring out what exactly it is we want to say about those stories is a little trickier... Example: Rep. Anderegg and Sen. Niederhauser had a bit of an issue with some posts on Twitter earlier this year. Of course, we are going to talk about it; but just saying "that was dumb" or "he should know better" doesn't make for a good show unless we explain why we didn't like it, or how they could of handled it better. To do that, you have to look into the details of what actually happened.

Shon: I'm a big news type. So I'm always finding something new to talk about. I come into a show with about 15 browser tabs open. Most of the show is free form and off the cuff, though we just roll through it naturally. Also, Idaho never fails to give good content for the Throwdown.

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Gavin: Considering the content that you cover, do you get a lot of feedback from people who dislike the conversation, or is it more of a situation where those who hate it just won't listen?

Shon: The feedback we get is usually from people who may not agree with us, but can see where we are coming from to get to our views and opinions. Nobody has ever come out and said "screw those guys." But even if they did, I would feel they were missing out, because one thing we make sure to let people know is that if you have a view or an opinion, bring it to us, we will bring you on and hash it out.

Adam: I think that the theme of the show itself is that you can't just look at a story from one side; or that one political party will have all of the solutions all the time. The reality is that the most extreme voices of the political spectrum tend to be the loudest, but the honest conversation that needs to happen is closer to the middle of the spectrum. That's what we try to do with our podcast: present a topic, give some background, explain why each of us feels the way we do in it, and leave it up to the listener to make their own opinions.

Gavin: With all the politics you cover, do you ever hear from anyone on the hill or from either party?

Shon: Oh yeah we do. But it is never a bad thing; nobody has ever complained. For example, we had Sen. Todd Weiler on who made some comments about SB-100 and Gay Marriage. Eric Ethington heard them and we gave him an hour to come and refute them. We have heard from people who are in power, and know about us and it is weird when they talk about coming on.

Adam: We are both pretty active on social media, so when we get a response on the content of our show, it's usually through there. We have been lucky enough to have some people approach us about being on the show, and we always appreciate that. We like to think that we are open to feedback.

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Gavin: More recently you've brought on reporters and commentators to chat on the show, how has it been bringing on guests?

Adam: Guests are great. It let's them state their positions in their own words, rather than sound bites or headlines. People talk about "media bias" a lot; and you can't put bias on someone speaking in their own words. For example we recently interviewed Tristan Mecham (the man who went on hunger strike in protest to Judge Shelby's ruling on Amendment 3 a while back). Neither Shon nor myself agreed with what he had to say, but he wasn't mean, he wasn't aggressive and he wasn't anywhere near the person that many people I knew had "decided" he was based on headlines about his story. He even thanked us, not just for letting him on the show, but for not editing what he said.

Shon: I think it gets their story out. Take something like the John Swallow episode. We had Robert Gehrke from the Salt Lake Tribune come on and for more than two hours we went over the story. Now, of course, this was before more details came down, but it gave the consumer another way to view and understand a very convoluted and in-depth story. I think guests have been open to coming on. Guests like Mark Shurtleff responded via a simple tweet, and gave us tons of content and buzz. We also don't edit what they are saying. If you say something on our show, it is going out as is. I think that has helped guests to come on and feel comfortable with us and the format of the show.

Gavin: What's your overall goal with the show and what do you hope to achieve with it?

Shon: For me there has never been an agenda. I use it as an outlet. I appreciate all the listeners and what not, but the Throwdown has always been a hobby. If I could turn it into a media empire or a radio show, it might be different, but for right now, I just roll on and wait to see what happens next, just like you and our listeners do. Because the show is always evolving and changing to fit what we think will make it more compact and keep it fresh and interesting.

Adam: I honestly have no agenda for the show! I do the show every week hoping that someone listens, but I'm not bothered if they don't. I'd like to get a job in radio, but that's not why I do the show. I do the show to tell people how I feel about issues that affect the people of Utah.

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Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and the show over the rest of the year?

Shon: I think you can expect more guests. We are working on changing up the format just a bit to have multiple episodes that drop over an entire week instead of listening for two hours at a time. One of the things about podcasting is that it makes it extremely mobile in format and the show changes because within a week or two, we can gauge how a change is working. We will have more feature episodes where we talk in depth with candidates, who can use the podcast as a vehicle to get their message and platform out to a different demographic quickly and easily. Also we are looking up at picking up remotes and doing live recordings as well. (If any of your readers are interested send them our way.)

Adam: I'd like to think we'd have more of the same as far as honest commentary on politics in Utah. All politics are local politics! If you aren't paying attention, then you are doing yourself a disservice. My hope for the show is that people learn more about how the system works, and choose on their own to get involved.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Adam: UtahPoliticoHub.com is a website we contribute to where a group of bloggers from all around the state and with different views get together to comment and participate in a single website. It's a very unique format and platform to get views about single issues or issues that are important to you. I'm happy working with them.

Shon: I would say vote. Participation in politics is crucial to the good of our community. Also, many people have heard of "buy local." Well, we promote "listen local." There are a lot of great podcasts from Utah and you're missing out if you aren't listening to them. And then I will echo Adam's views on The Utah Politico Hub.


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