[00:00:00] Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Hey, it’s Jordan. And no, this is not an ad. A couple of months ago, we asked you for feedback. We wanted to know as we prepare to celebrate our third anniversary, where The Big Story should go from here. So we launched our first ever audience survey. Big news, I know.
I was honestly expecting a few dozen participants. A few nice notes. A couple of people telling me to shut up about sports and everyone, including me being sick of COVID. And I was right about the last two things I mentioned, but wrong about basically everything else.
First of all, tons of you responded and thank you so much for that. We got hundreds and hundreds of answers, and it was a really long survey. So it’s really impressive. We got detailed feedback. We got some important questions. We got a few great suggestions, all of that. And when we were asking you to fill out the survey, I promised that [00:01:00] we’d share the results with you. So we’re going to today in a bonus episode!
If you don’t care about the survey and you thought you were getting an actual, extra Big Story on a Saturday, you’re not, you can just skip this one. But one of the things we’ve been genuinely blown away by over three years of doing this show is the community that sprung up around it. So we asked and you guys deliver and we are so grateful. So you deserve to know what everybody said. And more importantly, you deserve to know what we’re going to do about it.
I’m Jordan Heath-Rawlings, this is a special episode of The Big Story, featuring The Big Story’s new Lead Producer, Stefanie Phillips. Hey Stef.
Stefanie Phillips: Hey Jordan. This is going to be fun.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Congratulations on your promotion!
Stefanie Phillips: Thank you! It’s exciting new role.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Oh my God. This cat is playing around. Hold on one second.
It [00:02:00] would not be a Big Story episode without an appearance by the cat.
Stefanie Phillips: I’m loving her appearances.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Okay Stef, what’s the first question?
Stefanie Phillips: All right. So a lot of our listeners pointed out that we kind of tend to cover a lot of Ontario stories and they said we’re guilty of being too Ontario centric. So do you want to explain why we do that and how we’re trying to change that approach?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: I do. I knew this question was coming. Um, this is the most common complaint about The Big Story. We all live in Toronto. We cover Ontario, we cover Ontario politics, and we often ignore some of the other provinces in Canada. And that’s kind of true, but not totally. We make an effort every week to find stories from across the country, and some of the most explosive stories in this country come out of Toronto and out of Ottawa. Some of the most explosive political scandals in this country come out of the government of Ontario. [00:03:00] I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
Part of it is natural bias because we do live here. Um, I’ve worked in journalism for a long time here, I know a lot of the journalists that work in this area, I like talking to them. That’s the personal stuff, that’s the stuff we’re going to try to change. The stuff we’re not going to try to change, uh, and it is unfortunate for some of the smallest regions of the country is, I mean, the show is called The Big Story, and the biggest stories are the ones that impact the lives of the most Canadians. And a lot of those stories come from the center of the universe. Uh, there’s no getting around that.
We will always tell stories from the farthest flung reaches of Canada. We love telling those stories. Stef, we have more fun telling those stories than like any others, right?
Stefanie Phillips: Yeah. I was going to say like some of our best episodes are the investigations that come out of [00:04:00] small towns, so. We’re definitely still going to keep doing those.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: And we’re going to try to do more of them. The other problem with it is just, COVID has sucked up a lot of the time and space that those stories used to get on programs like ours. You know, if you’re a newspaper, you can still find room for those stories on A4 or A7 or whatever. Like those stories still exist. If you’re a podcast that tells one story a day, look, it sucked, but for the last year, like three of every five days have been about COVID because it’s been our life.
Stefanie Phillips: Yeah. We’re also trying to change that though. We’re trying to only do COVID stories when they are the main story.
All right, let’s move on to this next one. So we surprisingly got a lot of feedback on another one of our shows, The Gravy Train, that you hosted Jordan, and specifically people wanting to know if we’re going to do another season. So what do you think, are we doing season two of The Gravy Train or maybe something similar?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Oh, we sure are. Listen. Season one was the [00:05:00] story of Rob Ford and how he led, uh, a city down the wrong path as he grappled with his addictions. Rob Ford was a compelling character. He’s a part of Canadian history. Um, and was the harbinger of a new era.
His brother’s none of those things, except he somehow became Premier of Canada’s largest province almost by accident because of a scandal that took out the frontrunner. Then after a year of cuts was roundly hated. Then he was hailed as a champion when COVID hit for his stern Premier dad approach to COVID messaging.
And then a few thousand Ontarians died in long-term care homes and the disease rampaged out of control for an entire year. And a lot of people blame Doug Ford for that. I’m not going to say if we do, but we’re going to investigate it.
Stefanie Phillips: Yeah. And there’s a lot of different side stories within that [00:06:00] story that we want to look into. So I’m excited to dive into that.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: It’s a story of pathology. I mean, Doug Ford is the older brother, Rob Ford is the younger brother. Rob Ford was just more likeable and charming and got the benefit of the doubt from so many more people. And Doug decided to carry on his legacy after he passed. And, uh, and then there’s a whole weird family dynamic going on there and, uh, the lives of 14 million Ontarians got dragged into the middle of it.
Stefanie Phillips: Yeah, I guess that’s not really the best example of how we’re trying not to be Ontario centric, but we promise there will be an angle for all Canadians.
All right. Um, this next question. So a few people said they, they might be willing to pay for some additional content from the show, from The Big Story, uh, like bonus episodes or ad-free episodes, but not everyone was open to it, going to be honest here. Jordan, do you want to explain why we’re asking people if they’re willing to pay for extra [00:07:00] content?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Yeah, because I need beer money. We can’t do this podcast for free. We get paid, um, mostly we get paid well, uh, and we’re very grateful for it. We’re owned by, uh, Roger Sports and Media, and we have regular good jobs and good salaries. But as you guys probably know, since we tend to cover the media on this podcast, uh, the media, especially the news media is in trouble. And everybody wants to figure out what the new funding model is going to look like. And I don’t think any media organization right now, and this is just me putting on my other hat in which, you know, I’m, I’m also charged with running this network, and I don’t think anybody running any media network wants to bet solely on advertising as the way to grow their business.
And I think if you asked any journalist, they would much rather have the people who actually consume their content paying the bills, um, rather than people placing [00:08:00] advertisements within that context. So we just wanted to see, we wanted to see if people would be willing to pay, how much they’d be willing to pay, what they would expect, uh, in return for their money, which is totally fair.
I will say this, we will not charge for The Big Story’s daily episodes. We will never put those behind a paywall. We might offer bonus content in the future. Uh, if you subscribe, we might obviously offer ad-free episodes like so many podcasts do, we might offer, I don’t know, newsletters or whatever forms of new media emerge. But the actual The Big Story podcast, Monday to Friday in your feed in the AM, um, we’re not going to charge you to hear that.
Stefanie Phillips: On that note though, I guess part of the reason why we do have great salaries, um, is that we work for a big corporation, Rogers, and a lot of our listeners pointed out that they want us to be more transparent about that fact. So do you want to give us a quick breakdown of [00:09:00] where The Big Story fits into the Rogers ecosystem and how that does or doesn’t impact our coverage?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Of course. Um, and I want to say, first of all, that, when I read the results of this survey, I had no idea that our listeners didn’t know that. I didn’t know that I wasn’t being clear on it. Um, so since we got the survey results, I have like four times now managed to work into a question that, as you know, we are owned by Roger Sports and Media, and I’m going to try to do it, uh, whenever I have even the slightest chance to. Just so nobody thinks that we’re obfuscating, uh, who owns Frequency Podcast Network and The Big Story podcast. It is Roger Sports and Media.
I will just say this. And some people won’t believe me because, uh, some people don’t believe the media when they talk about things like this, but I’m being honest. They’ve never asked us not to cover something. Like it’s never happened. And it’s because Rogers has a long history, I think, of owning traditional media brands.
So for those of you who are podcast [00:10:00] listeners only, Rogers also owns the CityNews, CityTV across all of Canada. They own news radio stations that we affectionately refer to as the green brands, they are 680News in Toronto, NEWS1130 in Vancouver, et cetera, et cetera. And of course they also own the traditional sports media brand, SportsNet.
And I also worked at SportsNet, and believe it or not, they never told us to take it easy on the Blue Jays. Like it, it’s not a conversation that happens. Do people sometimes think to themselves, maybe I shouldn’t write my column calling this guy who is technically a colleague, um, one of the dumbest men on the planet? It probably happens, people in the media worry about their job sometimes, but I can tell you there’s never been a topic we’ve considered for The Big Story and be like, we can’t do that, Rogers won’t like that. Like in every time I’ve run something up the chain to be like, just a heads up, we’re going to talk about this, they’ve said fine. Thanks for letting us know.
Stefanie Phillips: Okay, another [00:11:00] super serious question. Are you ready?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Sure.
Stefanie Phillips: So the people want to know why do you talk so slowly?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Slowly? That… is ridiculous.
I told you guys that this would come up. I knew this would come up. Cause we even get like reviews on Apple Podcasts about this. When we first started the show, I talked so fast, it was ridiculous. I’m a former newspaper person. I didn’t know how to talk, I had no formal training and I would just talk like this because I was reading from a script and I just wanted to get through the intro so that I could get on to the questions and we could continue to have a podcast and I could wrap it up and go home early and have a beer.
And if you listen to it, it’s horrible.
Stefanie Phillips: But then, did someone tell you to slow down a little bit or?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Yeah, like, everybody. Claire did, you did, Ryan did, Scott Metcalfe who ran 680News and was consulting with us when we were launching the podcast, he told me to slow down, and I had to make a real effort to do it.
[00:12:00] And one other thing that happened that I honestly had never considered, probably to my detriment, is that we got a few letters from listeners who mentioned that either they themselves or someone in their family spoke English as a second language, or was learning English. And pausing, taking my time, waiting between sentences helped them keep up and help them learn new words and understand the conversation. So, you know, I feel like that’s a really positive thing, much like, you know, we have a duty to put transcripts online, uh, because it’s an accessibility issue. This is kind of an accessibility issue too.
You know, I speak pretty poor French. Um, and when I go back to Quebec and people speak a mile a minute at me, as they do in Quebec, I have a really hard time understanding. But when I do Duolingo or places where people speak French slowly, I’m much better at it. So I get it.
Stefanie Phillips: I want to add that [00:13:00] I also appreciate that you talk slowly because sometimes that makes editing a little bit easier. So when there’s space in between your words, I can actually trim it up a little cleaner.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: That’s true.
Stefanie Phillips: Yeah. Anyway, I want to move on to our last question. What changes are we actually going to make as a result of everything that we heard from the survey? And, um, yeah, is there like anything concrete that people can expect?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: There are a few things, most of them down the line, um, but a few that we’re trying to do now. Uh, the ones we’re trying to do now are yes, fewer stories from Toronto and Ontario. And hopefully as the pandemic eases and, you know, knock on wood cases continue to fall, it’s easier to do that.
And secondly, and this is something that came up a few times, um, and it really hurts my heart personally, we’re going to do fewer sports [00:14:00] stories. Everybody said that they didn’t come to us for sports. Um, It makes me very sad because obviously I have a background in sports media. I love sports. Um, it’s a break from talking about COVID and depressing things. And I will still do them, I’ll still make us do them when something really important happens, like in October when the Jays win the world series, we’re doing that episode, but.
Stefanie Phillips: Ooh, big prediction!
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Yeah. But in general, I will stop forcing my sports fandom on you guys, uh, as much as I do anyway. And, uh, the same thing for our entertainment episodes. We’re not going to stop doing them, because again, that’s a big part of people’s lives and sometimes we need stories like that, I think, um, to take people away from the daily grind of the news, especially in the pandemic, but even just in general, because the news can be depressing.
Um, those are fun episodes. You can listen to them on the weekend. You don’t have to listen to them the morning they come out, and we all have a good time doing them. And we did hear from some people that had a good time listening to them, but [00:15:00] there were far more people who said, I really don’t like the entertainment and sports.
So those are the things we’re, we’re switching up right now. A lot of people said, I get that you have to do COVID, but it just bums me out when I see it every day. Sometimes I know I should listen, but I don’t want to, because I just know it’s going to make me scared or depressed. Listen, sometimes I don’t want to talk to the experts we talk to because they make me scared and depressed.
Stefanie Phillips: Yeah.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Um, but we have to do it. It’s almost over, uh, just hang on. And as soon as it’s over, I promise you, we won’t be holding on to COVID episodes, um, to try to keep that news cycle going. I’m ready to let it go.
Stefanie Phillips: I’m ready to let it go, too. And I want to add if anyone misses or wants that sports content, they can just follow you on Twitter. You’re always tweeting about sports stuff.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: That’s true. Um, and you can read it in my voice.
One more thing about what we’re actually doing, um, as a result of this, two things, actually, one is as mentioned, we’re doing a Season 2 of The Gravy Train, that was heavily requested, and we had a ton of fun doing [00:16:00] Season 1, and I think it’s important to do what happened when Doug Ford became Premier of Ontario. So we’re going to do that.
And the last thing we’re going to be doing, um, one of the things a ton of you said that you loved, uh, was the week we did last year with The Narwhal. Um, on climate change, on the front lines of climate change. We love The Narwhal, those guys do great work. I’m sure that we’ll work with them again, but we’re going to be finding more opportunities to partner with independent media, uh, on weeks when we can feature some of their stories. This is also, uh, as you may imagine, helping us get out of our Ontario bubble.
Uh, and it’ll give us a chance to talk to the folks who are doing the work on the ground, uh, across Canada right now, and who have great content and who are trying to kind of get the word out in a very crowded media landscape, uh, that what they’re doing is worth paying for. Um, and they share their time with us and they’re incredibly [00:17:00] generous to do that and we want to help them tell people about what they’re doing. So, um, more stuff like that week. I don’t want to say who we’re doing it with yet. Um, we’re talking to a few outlets.
But we’ll do more stuff like that and really highlight some of the independent journalism going on in this country, because this is the last thing I want to say before we’re finished this episode, we’ve been doing this for almost three years now. I like to talk, I like to write intros, I like to ask questions. This show does not exist without all of the people who give up half an hour of their day to join us and talk to us about what they do to share their stories with us. And it’s those people that have the real big stories, I just kind of introduce them slowly and then let them talk.
So thank you to them. If you’re listening to it and you’ve been on this show before, you’re the best, like thanks so much. That’s all I want to say.
Stefanie Phillips: Perfect. All right, thanks Jordan.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: You’re welcome. It’s nice to answer questions for [00:18:00] once.
Stefanie Phillips: Yeah, a little flip of the tables.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: That was me and Stef, and that was The Big Story. You guys, if you’ve listened to this one, you don’t need all the details at the end. Just know that we sincerely appreciate you. The people who care about the show are the people we make it for. If you ever have a suggestion, find us on Twitter, email us, we’ll listen.
Thank you, as always, for doing the same, and we’ll talk Monday.
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