I sat in class last week for the first time unsure of what to say. The head of CCSU’s History department Katherine Hermes lead class discussion talking about historians having a public persona. She hosts a podcast dealing with new books in law and is active on social media sites managing material related to native american legal history. Her presence online is noted and has gained followers and with that she has learned what it is to be a Historian in the public.
With today’s technology it is very difficult to hold a private life online, especially when the internet can help to advance a career and get word out. So being a historian in the public sphere can help but also hurt our careers. It is essential to monitor what is posted on sites like Facebook and twitter, and how we interact on those sites with our audience because one miss step and all our handwork can be worthless. If a historian is to have a public persona it is important to maintain that identity in a professional manner that can not hinder their livelihood, but in a way that can also engage the public.
One way that many historians have now turned to is Podcasting. Podcasting is a form of a radio show broadcasted over the internet instead of the airwaves. Personally, I like to refer to a Podcast as an audio blog. Information can be packed into a single podcast that can highlight a certain topic while also engaging the publics interest. One of the best podcasts dealing with history is Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. Dan Carlin is able to add great emotion to important historical events while narrating an in-depth look into historical events. His most recent podcasts deal World War I, the five part series is long but completely worth listening to. Carlin talks about almost every possible topic dealing with the war giving a concise history of people, battles, and the home fronts. Hardcore History is an excellent podcast but it is also one that stands alone as a lecture series. There are many different types of podcasts with topics in history.
Another excellent example of a historical podcast is Backstory. A podcast released by the American History Boys, these podcasts feel less like a lecture and more like an experience. The open dialogue between the anchors of the show allows for a less formal narration that still relays information to the public. It is an extremely engaging podcast that goes off popular interest that are not always as heavy as First World War, for example the episode titled “The Future Then” deals with the ways in which America viewed the future in the past. Backstory uses a format that is comfortable for the public to listen too, its laid back vibe is more welcoming to a wider audience because its typical podcast fits into a span of nearly a single hour. A single hour is just under the same amount of time it takes to commute into New York from New Haven via train, which many people have similar commutes through out the country, and the world, many of which would enjoy listening to a podcast like Backstory, that is relatable and informative.
With podcasting there is a need to maintain a public persona that coincides with the persona portrayed on the podcast. It is maintaining that persona that can attribute to an individuals ability to produce trusted interpretation or just information. As historians we hope to educate the people around us on topics that pertain to their lives and a great way to do that is through podcasting but only if we maintain an exterior that will allow for that information to be perceived as good than everything we release into the public must be treated as such.