Podcaster Erica Mandy is making the news NewsWorthy
by Rachel Reeves
After a decade of spending most of her waking hours broadcasting the news, Redondo Beach resident Erica Mandy was approaching burnout. She had the job she’d always dreamed of, in sun-soaked Los Angeles, a major metropolitan market. She’d worked her way up from a part-time job in the small college town of Columbia, Missouri, and through a broadcast position in Portland, Oregon, to a position reporting on KCBS-KCAL for CBS Los Angeles.
Three years later, she wasn’t sure it was what she wanted after all. Day in and day out, she arrived at the scenes of worst-case scenarios and talked to people about their tragedies.
“No one told me about the impact of that in journalism school,” Mandy said. Burnout is a familiar feeling for reporters and others who spend a lot of time thinking about disaster and struggle, from activists to therapists to EMTs. But increasingly it’s echoing beyond the scope of particular professions. In 2017, the Pew Research Center published a study that revealed seven out of 10 Americans believed they had developed “news fatigue.” In 2019, the figure was two-thirds.
Mandy realized she felt the way the people around her felt about the news: it was stressful, depressing, or both. She had been an early adopter of podcasts, and she started thinking about a new kind of show that would keep people informed, but in shorter, less partisan, less sensational, and less gloomy segments. She envisioned news that was “fast, fair and fun,” which would later become the slogan for her podcast. She believed so much in the momentum of her idea that she quit her job.
“People just didn’t get it,” Mandy said. “Podcasts at the time weren’t as popular as they are now. I always feel bad calling him out but my boss at the time, who I really liked, said to me, oh, my 19-year-old son wants to start a podcast, too. That’s what you’re going to do after you leave this dream job behind?”
She promised herself she’d give it a year, and if she made a single dollar within that period, she’d keep going. She then assembled an audience of her friends and family and got to work doing what she had been trained to do: she found stories.
In 2017, after practicing with her makeshift audience, Mandy launched The NewsWorthy. She had no experience in public relations or running a business, but she did understand how the media machinery operates.
She told everyone she knew about The NewsWorthy. She offered interviews to other podcasters. She attended industry events. She pitched the podcast to every platform she could think of.
“I decided I had to go all in,” she said. “I’d just quit my job. I couldn’t be shy or embarrassed or uncertain. I had to just go for it.”
Within the first four months, she was featured on Apple Podcasts and Salon.com.
“There was this great momentum in the honeymoon phase,” she said. “And then came the part where nobody pays attention anymore. It wasn’t brand-new anymore. So then I just realized, I’m in this. I’m not going to give up until I hit that one-year mark. And I’m so glad I didn’t let the one month of plateauing stop me.”
By the one-year mark, she had grown her audience and she was bringing in advertising dollars. Take The Lead named her one of 50 women changing the world in media and entertainment in 2018.
Three years after launching The NewsWorthy, she’s filled all her advertising slots. Millions of people download the podcast. Apple listed The NewsWorthy as one of the top 25 daily news podcasts. Harper’s Bazaar called it a “Best Podcast,” Fast Company named it a “Best News App,” and Stitcher labelled it a “Can’t Miss.”
The podcast’s growth attracted an investor in PodFund, which has also invested in bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast studio.
To manage her growing business, Mandy has a team of four people. In the afternoons, the news writers sift through the day’s stories and begin writing the show. They look for positive, exciting stories about technology or entertainment to offset stories of disaster. Later in the evening, Mandy meets with the writers and executive producer to edit the show. She records it at about midnight, then sends it to an editor who puts it out by 1 a.m. Pacific time, or 4 a.m. Eastern Time.
“We like being one of the first daily news podcasts available in the morning,” Mandy said.
On Saturday’s podcast, Mandy interviews people. Ahead of this year’s election, she featured the president of Rock the Vote, an organization committed to getting young people to vote. On the anniversary of the founding of the American Disability Association, she interviewed Ali Stroker, the first Broadway star to use a wheelchair.
“We look at the stories and ask ourselves what is most impactful for our listeners,” she said. “What are people going to be talking about that our listeners need to know when they walk into work or walk into a conversation, and how do we bring variety? What do people need to know? What’s the takeaway here?”
Amid a global pandemic, she said, and a contentious election and myriad natural disasters, the audience for news that’s fast, fair, and fun continues to grow.
“We still have the same mission,” Mandy said. “It’s just, I think, our mission is even more important now and resonates with even more people.” ER
by Kevin Cody
Kevin is the publisher of Easy Reader and Beach. Share your news tips. 310 372-4611 ext. 110 or kevin[at]easyreadernews[dot]com