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Posted on 3 February 2018

The trial for the alleged murder of Colton Boushie, the 22-year-old Cree man who was shot and killed on a farm in rural Saskatchewan started this week. And so did “Boushie,” a podcast being produced by CBC Saskatchewan and the single most important thing I think is happening at CBC right now.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but also, maybe not. I’ve only listened to two episodes (because that’s all there is), but this is the first CBC podcast I’ve heard that I think really capitalizes on CBC’s strengths without simply being a radio show available to download.

Here’s what I mean by that. So far, there are roughly two categories of CBC podcasts (I’m writing this as a listener, by the way – I don’t actually have any information that gives me more insight into the world of CBC podcast than any other interested listener with the ability to look at iTunes).

Category one is what I already mentioned— radio shows available to download. These are things like the Sunday Edition, the Current, As It Happens. Smart, insightful programs but also ones beholden to the formats and conventions of broadcast radio.

Category two is CBC Originals podcasts. These are shows like On Drugs, The Fridge Light, and Somebody Knows Something: things you might hear on CBC, but are designed with the idea that they are a podcast.

By the way, this how they are sorted in Apple’s Podcast store, just in case you were wondering how I came up with this:

The CBC Originals are also smart and insightful. But to a certain extent they operate independently of the overall CBC ecosystem. They aren’t tapping into the newsrooms and daily reporting going on across the country in a way that’s central to the overall structure of how they’re made, as best I can tell.

That’s not the case for Boushie. The two primary players are a host (Rachel Zelniker) and reporter (Charles Hamilton), both based in Saskatchewan and both, it is evident, with some depth of knowledge of the cultural context in which this trial is taking place and just why it is so explosive. In setting the scene before the daily courtroom drama begins, the podcast draws extensively on existing CBC radio content, such as past interviews and local call-in shows. It’s the sort of stuff that virtually nobody but CBC would have on hand.

But it’s not simply a rehash of past content. The day-to-day programming is recontextualized into a larger narrative, complete with (tasteful) music beds and a natural-sounding back-and-forth between the two guides. It’s also too long to fit in as a segment on an existing radio show and too short to be a show of its own. In other words, it’s a podcast. And the fact that it’s coming from Saskatchewan really sets it apart— how many other media organizations with this sort of infrastructure even have people based there?

A while back I somewhat facetiously tweeted “The Daily, but for anything other than American politics every day.” I was referencing the New York Times podcast that, every weekday, spends fifteen to thirty minutes with one of its reporters contextualizing a story of the day. While rightfully lauded, I (obviously) find it somewhat narrow in scope and crave something that speaks more directly to my experiences as a Canadian. I don’t know if it’s in the plans, but if anyone is wondering what a Canadian version of the Daily might sound like, Boushie is providing an excellent example, on an important story. You can subscribe to it here.

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Filed under: CBC, media, radio

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