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Student-led Podcast Discusses Pandemic and Institutionalized Racism

Athens, Georgia high school senior Alex Benoit and friend Will Fang begin a podcast enterprise, The Finch Podcast.

Benoit and Fang began The Finch Podcast mainly out of boredom from staying at home after schools migrated online. But they also started this podcast because they were upset with the national rhetoric regarding this pandemic. So Benoit’s and Fang’s first order of business was to tackle this issue. However, instead of asking the usual suspects (economists, public health experts, and politicians), they spoke with everybody. In 16 interviews, with philosophers, sociologists, historians, economists, epidemiologists, psychologists, virologists, and our mayor, we adopted our mantra: they dissected complex issues with a multidisciplinary approach.

It is around the end of their coverage on COVID-19 that the heinous murder of Georgia Floyd came to light. They interviewed an expert on race relations from the University of Virginia and a law professor specializing in police accountability from the University of Chicago that week. Their episodes on police brutality and institutionalized racism were covered by local newspapers. But this did not come without a price. Feeling as though they live in an extremely conservative county which voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, they state that, “it is my county, Oconee County, which was the site of the ‘last’ lynching in the United States. Effigies and Klan meetings continued to exist well into the 2000s and the sheriff there has alluded to ‘hunting’ for African American criminals.” For every compliment on our truthful reporting they received backlash and death threats, even from other states. They allegedly have been threatened endlessly for months now by a white nationalist group in Oregon, but they continue to do the work of providing factual, timely, and multi-disciplinary information.

Benoit and Fang, through their podcast, covered the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the bombing in Lebanon. Most recently they’ve undertaken episodes on voter suppression with experts from MIT and UF. They have been very frustrated with how our communities and our peers have responded to events like the pandemic and social movements like BLM. They used this podcast, remaining apolitical, to get to the raw truth. They got their name, The Finch Podcast, name from Darwin’s finches. Seemingly normal birds that held the keys to evolution. The company constantly evolves at The Finch, and they believe issues are not always what they appear to be.

While the podcast show started out of Georgia, we now have listeners in 25 states and 15 countries. Another interesting element of the show: it is an entirely student-led team of over 40 dedicated artists, writers, producers, and outreach members. Together, they create art and writing for each episode, have designed a website, created community support and sponsorships, and invited some of the most prominent researchers and elected officials from around the globe. All in three months. All from the comfort of our respective homes. Benoit and Fang had no experience in media and journalism, but creating this documentary series has definitely made them re-evaluate worldviews.

Our award-winning work has been published in the Red and Black, Classic City News, WUGA, the Oconee Enterprise, and Flagpole. Our investigative reporting of hospital capacity in Athens, Georgia, American bombing raids in Yemen, and voter suppression in this state, has been republished and disseminated across platforms. As students affected by local and state policies, their podcast counters with complex discussions with U.S. Ambassadors, Southern politicians, Top Chef Judges, Greenpeace Executives, and leading epidemiologists.

Links to their website and the platforms and social media handles:

  • Website: www.thefinchpodcast.com
  • Anchor: https://anchor.fm/the-finch-podcast
  • Breaker: https://www.breaker.audio/the-finch
  • Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xZDIxMGU0MC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==
  • Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-finch/id1509611078
  • Overcast: https://overcast.fm/itunes1509611078/the-finch-podcast
  • Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/57927v01
  • Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube: @thefinchpodcast

List of some of their recent guests:

  • Dr. Brian Williams, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia
  • Dr. John Rappaport, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Chicago’s School of Law
  • Scott Paul, Humanitarian Policy Lead of Oxfam America
  • Dr. Juan Gilbert, Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor and Department Chair of Computer & Information Science & Engineering at University of Florida
  • Dr. Charles H. Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Deborah Gonzalez, Former State Representative for Georgia District 117
  • Dr. Neal Priest, Chief of Emergency Medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, Georgia
  • Dr. Michelle vanDellen, Associate Professor of the Behavioral and Brain Science Program at the University of Georgia
  • Kelly Girtz, Mayor of Athens, Georgia
  • Dr. Scott Atkinson, Professor and Jasper Dorsey of Utility in the Department of Economics at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Scott Pegan, Professor of Pharmacy and Director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Timothy Yang, Assistant Professor in Biomedical History at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Melissa Fahmy, Associate Professor in Kantian Ethics at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. John Drake, Director of the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. David Bradford, Busbee Chair and Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Eric Zeemering, Associate Professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia
  • Jonathan Wallace, Former State Representative for Georgia District 119
  • Dr. Justin Ingels, Assistant Research Scientist in the Health Policy and Management Institute at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Laura Phillips Sawyer, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Business School
  • Dr. Richard Slatcher, Williamson Distinguished Professor in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Program at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Biao He, Fred C. Davidson Distinguished University Chair in Veterinary Medicine and GRA Distinguished Investigator and Professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Kim Fowler, Director of the Human Research Program at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Susan B. Haire, Professor and Director of the Criminal Justice Studies Program at the University of Georgia
  • Dr. Sandra Mayson, Assistant Professor in the School of Law at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Dr. Sander van der Linden, Professor in Social Psychology of Society and Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab at the University of Cambridge
  • Dr. Eric Winsberg, Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of South Florida
  • Dr. Maximilian Auffhammer, the George Pardee Jr. Professor of International Sustainable Development and Regional Associate Dean of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley
  • Dr. William Ruddiman, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia
  • Dr. Justin Mankin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Director of the Climate Modeling and Impacts Group at Dartmouth College
  • Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University

Alex Benoit and Will Fang, The Finch Podcast

Last updated on August 26, 2020