01 May 2020

Clare Rawlinson sailing past the Statue of Liberty
Podcasts are both a way to stay informed on current events and provide a distraction when things get too much. Senior Producer for Stitcher Originals in NYC, Clare Rawlinson, shares her personal favourites and the importance of podcasts as an antidote for these difficult times.

Clare Rawlinson

Bachelor of Journalism
Senior Producer at Stitcher Originals

When Clare graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of South Australia in 2010, podcasts had not quite yet become the cultural phenomenon they have become today.

After she began her career working for a country newspaper and cutting her teeth in various ABC radio and television newsrooms, Clare looked to New York City where she was continuously inspired by the audio content being produced there.

After many failed online job applications, she found talking to people – even via Twitter – quickly led to a great opportunity at Stitcher as a development producer. “New Yorkers would call this hustling, and it worked!” In just the short three years she has been there, Clare has developed and launched several shows, including Unladylike, Household Name, The Dream, Mob Queens, Science Rules with Bill Nye.

Now from May onwards, she starts a new adventure working with Audible Australia to help build a slate of factual shows for the Australian and international audience.

We talk to Clare about her journey, personal recommendations and why now in a world mired by COVID-19 – essentially shutdown – podcasts are still dominating the media landscape and becoming more important than ever.

Stitcher Producer, Clare Rawlinson, and the New York City skyline
Stitcher Producer, Clare Rawlinson, and the New York City skyline

1. The COVID-19 situation is pretty serious in NYC currently. Are you still in the US? How have you been spending your days in isolation?

We decided to move back to Australia the day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus a pandemic, which was also the day New York workplaces were advised to move to a work-from-home policy.

Stitcher announced we would be moving to an exclusive work-from-home policy and most businesses that could do so also made this choice in early March. I could see that it was just the start of a very difficult time for New York.

I was already planning to move back to Australia at some point this year, so the pandemic just, let’s say, bumped my schedule up. It was not how I wanted to leave New York, and I still hope to return to have proper farewells as soon as it’s safe to do so.

In Melbourne, I’ve been working in quarantine and doing a lot of cooking, phone calls, and also napping. I get up at 4:30am to have a few hours of overlap with New York still, and go to bed really early.

I live with my partner and our two housemates that we lived with in New York, who are also Australian, so we’re all dealing with the same struggle of having left the city we love so suddenly and feeling a little caught between two worlds.

But I’m incredibly grateful to have a safe place to live and meaningful work to do.

Clare and husband, Tom, in on a weekend trip in Upstate New York
Clare and husband, Tom, in on a weekend trip in Upstate New York

2. So for those that don’t know, what does being a Senior Podcast Producer at Stitcher Originals actually entail?

Being a podcast producer can mean all kinds of things.

For me, it is a mix of talent scouting, coaching new hosts, developing new concepts, pitching shows and stories (a lot!), finding and booking great guests, editing audio, writing narrative scripts and sometimes just setting up simple show formats, leading teams of producers and talent (showrunning!), and working alongside story editors and external partners to bring shows to life in the best versions they can be.

Unlike working in a newsroom, it is less demanding on a daily and hourly deadline level, but I find it takes more leadership, time management and creativity.

3. I’ve noticed lately my friends and I turn a lot to podcasts – both when we want information from trusted professionals and when we need a distraction from what’s going on in the world – what do podcasts mean to you?

Podcasts are companionship for me. Whether I want to digest the news, or be inspired by art and music, or catch up on TV gossip, I find podcasts are the most friendly and intimate place for me to do that.

I love having my headphones in on the subway, or while doing chores, and often catch myself laughing out loud at something shared between me and the podcast I’m listening to.

I think it is also a place a lot of voices have the greatest platform to present themselves unfiltered. It’s not like a TV show, newspaper or even live radio, where there is a sense of the host in a public place or on stage performing a version of themselves.

On a podcast, the conceit of talking to a crowd or some distant vast audience always falls flat.

Clare and former drag queen, Adrian, one of the subjects of her Mob Queens podcast, at the NYC Drag March
Clare and former drag queen, Adrian, one of the subjects of her Mob Queens podcast, at the NYC Drag March

4. Do you have any thoughts about the importance of podcasts and a service like Stitcher in our world today?

Social distancing is hard, and our usual mechanisms for comfort and intimacy are either impossible or don’t feel safe (sharing meals with friends and family, hugging, or maybe going to book club).

The intimacy that podcasts provide is something I’m leaning on now, and that I hope I can provide to others as a producer.

Yesterday I listened to a 9-minute poetry podcast (Poetry Unbound) on repeat a few times, because it brought me a lot of peace when I was feeling anxious after reading the news.

Equally, podcasts can provide news and information in useful and personal ways, and this is what Stitcher aims to achieve with the new Coronavirus Edition of Science Rules that I’m producing.

Clare’s Personal Recommendations

With her unmatchable knowledge of all things podcasting, we asked Clare what shows she would personally recommend for any occasion. Check the goldmine below!

What podcast would you recommend as a reprieve from what is happening in the world right now?

Floodlines. This is an incredibly beautiful and moving podcast by The Atlantic about several people’s experiences of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans. It is scored by jazz legend Christian Scott and narrated by the writer Vann Newkirk.

Yes, it is about a disaster, but the time and distance it is told from has a soothing effect for the listener: there will also be a day when a podcast is made about COVID-19, as a moment in history and not a current crisis.

What podcast would you recommend as a source of useful information as the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold?

Personal plug, but obviously Science Rules! With Bill Nye. And the ABC’s Coronacast, or the NYT’s Sugar Calling if you want some self-care listening.

What’s the best podcast to listen to while cooking?

The Guilty Feminist.

What’s the best podcast to listen to while exercising?

I don’t think I could listen to a podcast while actually exercising, but I like long interview shows for going on walks – Longform Podcast, On Being, New Yorker Fiction.

What’s the best podcast to listen to while on your commute to work?

News and chat podcasts – NYT’s The Daily & Still Processing, NPR’s It’s Been a Minute, Gimlet’s The Cut on Tuesdays (R.I.P.), Unladylike.

Do you have a favourite podcast at the moment?

Floodlines. But my favourite from the past year was The Ballad of Billy Balls.


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