Their first show is great. The host of the show, Jim Williams, travels out to Yosemite National Park and tags along for an interpretive program. We meet park interpreter Shelton Johnson as he presents living history as Sergeant Alizy Bowman, one of the park's first rangers, a member of an African-American regiment of the U.S. Army. I really enjoyed that we have a chance to hear from Shelton after his presentation. It is an opportunity for Johnson to tell us why he believes interpretation is so important to national park protection. Interpreters are a passionate bunch, and you can hear an intensity in Johnson's voice as he talks about his craft. If the old saying is true, "it's not what you say, it is how you say it," then podcasts like this can be a powerful story-telling tool.
The NPCA is planning to roll out new programs twice a month. They are calling this set of podcasts "Park Stories." The voice behind the productions is Jim Williams. He's got more than 20 years in audio production, including work for film and video. He has worked a lot with public radio, and over the last six years has been awarded with Associated Press and Broadcasters Associations awards. In an email, Jim told me, "I have been doing nature writing for a decade, and combining that with audio storytelling is a dream come true."
Podcasting, in general, is a pretty new thing. Like the world wide web, it is technology-based, but please don't be put off by that. It might be helpful to think of podcasts as radio (and TV in some cases) for the next generations. If you think that is a bold statement, consider how far the 'web' has come in just 15 years. For many, reading the printed newspaper has been replaced with the electronic web version. Even now, television and radio stations are making more and more programming available over the Internet.
Many people make an association between podcasts and the Apple iPod, which may be somewhat accurate, but in my opinion really misses the potential of this content. I tend to think of these programs as 'radio on demand.' Instead of listening to the traditional over-the-air broadcasts, when I'm at my computer I can tune-in to the world of Internet podcasts to pick and choose the radio programs I'd like to hear, and even when I'd like to listen to them. Plus, if I am interrupted by a telephone call, I can hit the pause button and pick it up again when I'm ready. And, unlike regular radio, podcasts are stored on your computer so that you can listen to them again if you choose. And with enough programs covering your topics of interest, you can build your own special listening niche. If you are interested in National Parks, I'd suggest adding these four podcasts to your listening lineup.
National Parks Traveler [podcast rss] (our podcast)
National Parks Conservation Association [podcast rss]
The WildeBeat [podcast rss] (weekly 10 minute program about getting out in the Wilderness, many park related stories)
Dirtbag Diaries [podcast iTunes] (outdoor adventure which occasionally includes National Park topics)
Most websites (including all four listed above) give you the ability to listen to the podcast via the website. But, there are other computer programs that let you download and listen from your hard drive, as well as check every day to see if a new program exists. The most popular of these computer programs is iTunes, but there are others, like Juice and the web based PodNova.