Thoughts On Experiences Of Skeptic Podcasting

About six years ago I was asked by a friend if I’d contribute to a podcast he’d had the idea to start. There was a real lack of British skeptical podcasts at that time – especially those that focussed on weird news stories. We were both paranormal researchers who had come to the dark side (skepticism). I said yes, we recorded an episode and the Righteous Indignation Podcast became a thing and, to our great surprise, it became a thing that people actually liked and even mimicked in their own podcasts. Neither of us had expected that but there we were with a steadily growing number of listeners and interviews with people we’d never imagined we’d speak to lined up into the future.

Then Marsh came along and everything went downhill.

No, I’m joking. The team behind the RI Podcast expanded to include Marsh, and occasionally Dr*T (that mysterious Irish guy), Gavin Schofield, Andrew Johnston, Stephen Rooney and a number of other people who would step in from time to time when we needed an emergency co-host.

The show came to an end in 2012 when it was’t really possible for us to continue producing episodes without them losing quality and as RI had been something that so many people loved we didn’t think it was right to let that happen. By that point we all had lots of commitments that took up our time that we hadn’t when we started – family, careers, worldwide campaigns in which people overdosed on homoeopathy…

I listened to an old episode recently and it shocked me at how much things have changed since the good old days. For a start I sound completely different now that the squeaky voiced girl on that podcast and I think I am now more confident when it comes to tackling pseudo-scientific topics than I was back then – especially when debating people who believe in them. I used to get incredibly nervous before we did interviews, but it was a huge learning experience too.

I know that Trystan no longer identifies with the skeptic movement and it is the same for me, and although Marsh is still involved in the movement, his actions and work are done in a way that many cannot imagine themselves copying because he engages with those that he doesn’t agree with in a way that opens up an interesting dialogue to allow the exploration of weird and extraordinary beliefs and ideas further. It’s completely admirable.

I think that the RI podcast helped us all develop into what we are in one way or another.

When I became a co-host of that podcast I hadn’t found my feet when it came to my non-belief in things I had long held to be true and suddenly I was thrust into a (sort of) limelight that I had no proper knowledge of. The experiences I had as a result of this, the people I met, the things that I have learned from the whole skeptical podcasting experience has led me to the position I hold today, but it hasn’t always been an easy path.

I have a great respect for rational inquiry into extraordinary claims, I have learned a lot about the way in which I personally investigate paranormal claims, and my critical thinking skills have developed hugely because I was sort of thrown into the deep end of the skeptic movement without armbands.

I was still finding my feet with the skeptic movement when people assumed I’d already found them. I was still working out how I felt about certain topics, I was still learning how to spot logical fallacies and, at times, I was completely out of my depth. I think I got there in the end and the whole experience has been worth it.

During my time as a skeptic podcast host I learned to listen as well as talk, and that was a very important lesson. Not everyone in the skeptic movement wants to listen to opinions other than those that mirror their own and I don’t think it is a healthy approach. When Marsh and I established the Be Reasonable podcast in 2013 we did so with the intention of interviewing people who believe weird things. Some of the responses from our listeners were quite disheartening and made me question whether continuing as a podcast host was the thing for me and as a result of a bit of soul-searching earlier this year (pun intended) I stopped contributing as a co-host so that I could concentrate on other things.

All in all though co-hosting skeptic podcasts for so many years has been interesting and I’ve taken a lot from it. You can find the Be Reasonable podcast on the Merseyside Skeptics website by clicking here. You can find the Righteous Indignation back catalogue here, and you can find the blog of Trystan Swale here.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts On Experiences Of Skeptic Podcasting

  1. I used to really like Righteous Indignation and thought you and Trystan did a good, entertaining and occasionally educational job. I was rather sad to see it slide away into some sort of oblivion, also sad about having to unfollow Trystan on twitter.

    I’ve always admired your willingness to get involved and conduct actual investigations rather than let others do it then try and pick their results apart.

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