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Comedian Sarah Silverman had a party recently and invited many of her peers in comedy. She reportedly had a sign at the door that said “No podcast solicitation allowed.”

She of course told this story while being a guest on another comedian’s podcast.

Podcasts have become a very popular medium for comedians, and the guests they like to interview are other comedians.

But podcasts aren’t just for laughs.

According to Edison Research, there are more than 800,000 podcasts operating in the world, generating more than 54 million podcast episodes. They range from episodic tales of mystery to the ramblings of amateur RV travelers expounding on their latest adventure.

A podcast, or netcast, is basically a digital audio file that a user can download and listen to. The wide variety of topics available in podcasts has contributed to its growing popularity, especially among younger audiences.

However, most are not news podcasts.

And that’s where we come in.

In 2018 we started a podcast called “Off the Record” that involved then-reporter Kevin Reagan interviewing local newsmakers, usually as a lead-in to some specific event, like the county fair or one of our local festivals.

The effort had limited success for various technical and topical reasons.

But because 2020 will be an intense political year, we’ve decided to resurrect the podcast under a new name and format.

Each week, reporter Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa will interview candidates who are running for local, state and federal offices for the new podcast called PinalCast. The podcast is available to subscribers only. The hope is to provide voters with information they need to make a choice in the November election.

The first podcast, which is available this weekend, is an interview with U.S. Senate candidate Daniel McCarthy. McCarthy is running in a special election for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by former Sen. John McCain. McCarthy, a Republican, is running against Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat in 2018. Mark Kelly, the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, is running for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Aside from a new name, the podcast also has original theme music.

The music used in the podcast is written and performed by Casa Grande resident Steve Hartwell. This is the first recording of the song in 10 years by Hartwell. He wrote the song for his mother in 1962 while he was serving as an airman second class in the U.S. Air Force in Bentwaters, England.

Hartwell later served in Vietnam. He was only able to perform the song once for his mother before she died. The song is titled “My Mother in Our Arizona Home.”

Although news podcasts account for smaller market space, they outperform all other podcast categories in terms of listenership, according to Marcela Kunova, a reporter and podcaster for Journalism.co.uk.

Like the “Off the Record” podcast, PinalCast episodes will also have a print story companion, written by Suzanne in a traditional news story format involving an interview with a political candidate. The story and podcast are meant to be companion pieces taking advantage of PinalCentral’s multimedia platform.

The audio podcast gives us an opportunity to experiment with different formats or conversation topics beyond what we can do with the printed word. It also gives the audience a choice on learning more about a candidate than what they may get in a limited word story.

Besides, in this day and age of social media, some people just don’t want to read anything beyond 160 characters. But they will listen.

And for convenience sake, you can listen to a podcast while driving, something many commuters may find beneficial while stuck in traffic from the latest Interstate 10 closure between Casa Grande and Chandler.

And who knows, one of the candidates being interviewed might tell a joke, or two.

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You can reach reporter Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa at sadams@pinalcentral.com.

You can reach Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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