The Chatham News + Record and Our Chatham—the Reese News Lab student-staffed news initiative—have joined forces on a podcast venture called The Chatcast, which will explore newsworthy Chatham County topics over a season of episodes.
The first season, “The Age of Anxiety,” will focus on adolescent mental health and will be available for free beginning Dec. 13 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more.
“There’s still a lot of stigma around mental health, especially in the rural South,” said Zack Horner, a reporter with the News + Record spearheading the podcast project along with Our Chatham student reporter Adrianne Cleven ’20.
Horner and Cleven have interviewed Chatham County experts on mental health and education, as well as local adolescents and parents for the 10-episode series. Horner and Cleven will write, edit and narrate the season, which will also highlight mental health resources.
Our Chatham, funded by the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, already partners with the News + Record in other community-building capacities. The two media organizations have jointly hosted community conversations, and the News + Record regularly posts Our Chatham articles.
“I enjoy being able to hang out with budding young journalists,” Horner said of working with UNC Hussman students, who he called eager to explore the many ways technologies (like podcasts) enrich traditional storytelling.
Horner also welcomes the students’ help and insight in shedding light on such an important topic. In studying numbers from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Horner found that one in three Chatham high schoolers have reported symptoms of depression, while one in five said they’ve seriously considered suicide and one in nine report to have attempted suicide.
Those numbers are higher than national statistics. In 2017, around seven percent of teens in America reported they had attempted suicide, compared to 11.3 percent in Chatham County.
Cleven, a Chatham County native from Moncure in the county’s southeast, appreciates the way her role as an Our Chatham reporter, and her participation in The Chatcast, allows her to help her home county while also adding real world experience to her resume.
“The Chatcast experience has taught me that I can do something completely out of the box and new,” said Cleven, a senior who seeks a communications career path that combines community engagement with social justice after graduation.
Bill Horner III, publisher/editor of the Chatham News + Record, and Eric Ferkenhoff, who oversees Our Chatham for UNC Hussman, serve as executive producers on The Chatcast.