Student-produced podcast touches on new social issue each month



Sydney Sauer

The hardest part about doing the podcast, Sauer said, is tackling topics from communities she’s not a part of. Though this felt at first like a weakness, Sauer said she now sees it as a strength. Photo credit: courtesy of Sydney Sauer.

“In Good Society,” a podcast named after the goal of its creator, takes a dive into social issues ranging from the opioid crisis to hierarchies in the medical field.

Beginning in March with the debut episode “Midwestern Action,” Sydney Sauer, a third-year in sociology, said she started her podcast with the goal of expanding upon social justice issues that young people may see briefly covered on social media, then forget about within a short period of time. 

Sauer said the problem is that social media may not be the best place for those interested in social reform to have their questions answered.

“I think a lot of times people have questions about social justice and things they see on social media, but they’re always afraid to ask those questions because they don’t want to do anything that would offend people,” Sauer said. “But in reality, people remaining ignorant about these issues is way more harmful in the long run than asking the wrong question.” 

Sauer said she introduces a new topic for “In Good Society” each month and posts a new episode weekly on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. She said she’s fairly knowledgeable about some topics discussed, but others may take several hours or days to research before writing questions and interviewing her guests.

“It’s important to my guests that I’m asking questions that aren’t, like, surface-level things that anyone could just Google,” Sauer said. “I have these experts, I want to utilize their time well so if it’s like a sensitive topic or a topic I’m not super confident about, often three or four hours researching before I write my questions.” 

Her sociology major played a large role in developing her interest in the movements she now covers weekly, Sauer said. Although she initially planned to approach her project with a more sociology-based angle, Sauer said she realized she would have to interview those outside of the field to get the well-rounded stories she was hoping for.

The hardest part about doing the podcast is tackling topics from communities she’s not a part of, she said. Though this felt at first like a weakness, she now sees it as a strength.

“I didn’t want to be framing this debate in a certain way, as an outsider,” Sauer said. “I’ve come to realize that it’s actually one of my greatest strengths because, as an outsider, I’m able to ask the questions people like me want to know.

Bernard Hampton Flythe, a professional freelance musician from Georgia and guest on the episode “E-M-P-A-T-H-Y,” said Sauer’s podcast stood out to him because she showed a high level of empathy and put aside her vulnerabilities and fear to get to the truth — something he values in himself as well.

“I just felt like that if I don’t say anything, and I show fear and don’t show courage, no one’s really gonna follow my lead into the same thing,” Flythe said. “I just felt like this particular interview and podcast with Sydney, talking about being a gay black man — which I think is difficult for a lot of people, especially my community, to talk about — I thought if I could just show a great strength, it would reach a lot of people.”

Sauer said she features undergraduate and graduate alumni from Ohio State whenever she can. She said highlighting voices from Ohio State and Columbus is a priority, as they have more of a vested interest in the podcast. 

“One of the things I’d love to do in the future is just stand on the Oval and ask students about what they’re interested in learning about,” Sauer said. “I’d like to do more in-person interviews or interview students about their personal stories, instead of having an episode that features one expert, instead maybe featuring four or five students telling their stories about a certain topic.”

“In Good Society” has listeners from 39 states and is growing fast, Sauer said. She added that the feedback she receives from listeners on social media encourages her to continue putting in the work each week. 

Olivia Helmly, a third-year in welding engineering and a returning listener since the podcast’s first episode, said it’s easy to feel safe and become complacent within a university. She said she appreciates Sauer’s quality of content and obvious time spent researching topics covered in the podcast.

“I enjoy how it looks critically into a bunch of social issues that maybe we don’t think about,” Helmly said. “This month especially, she covered Stop Asian Hate, and like, a lot of those issues I just didn’t realize that they were such a big problem.”

Helmly said she likes that Sauer uses “In Good Society” to cover topics that she may not think about herself on a day-to-day basis. 

“I want Ohio State students to know these issues seem abstract on social media and, like, we’ve all been virtual for so long that it doesn’t seem to affect real people, but every single month, every single topic, there’s people at Ohio State — students, faculty, staff — who fit with these identities and who are marginalized by these issues,” she said.

Sauer said the topic for August is “Decriminalize All Drugs,” and the next episode of her podcast will be an interview with Douglas Berman of Ohio State’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center on Monday, Aug. 2.


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